At this point in the season the farmers market tables are a riot of color, piled precariously with mountains of perfect produce – succulent heirloom tomatoes in their misfit beauty, corn fit to burst at the touch, luminous summer squash lined up in flirty nonchalance. But you know what will happen. The abundance will slowly dwindle as the apples start taking over, and all of a sudden, it’s roots and kale until spring.
With the canning revival in full swing, sterilized jars and water baths are covering the counters of many a kitchen. But if you shy away from canning or have ample freezer space to supplement the pantry, freezing produce is an excellent way to preserve the local harvest for the bleaker months. Although frozen vegetables have taken a bad rap in the past, I’d take frozen produce in a heartbeat over old produce, commercially canned products, or produce imported from afar. Nutrients aren’t lost, and if frozen properly, neither is texture nor flavor.
Wash and dry everything thoroughly. Remove pits and cut into uniform sized pieces.
Use containers, freezer bags or a vacuum seal system – and remember to leave headroom for expansion.
If you are watching your use of plastic, the ever-popular Ball makes freezer safe glass jars—yay! Label with contents and date.
Although freezing slows enzyme action, it doesn’t completely stop it – therefore, most produce requires some method of heat treatment, generally blanching, to inactivate the ripening enzymes and to preserve color, texture, and flavor. To blanch vegetables, place the washed, prepared vegetables in a pot of boiling water. Roughly use a gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables. Boil water, and time the blanching as soon as the water returns to a boil after submerging the produce. After the recommended time has elapsed, remove the vegetables and plunge them into very cold (you can add ice) water for the same amount of time that you blanched them for.
Most frozen produce should be good stored for nine to 12 months. These are the basic methods for summer’s most popular produce.
Wash and trim ends, cut if desired. For whole beans, blanch for three minutes, for cut beans, blanch for two minutes. Dry, pack, seal and label.
For kernels: Remove husks and silks and trim ends. Blanch medium-sized ears, 3-4 ears at a time for five minutes. After blanching, remove kernels from cob, pack, seal, and label. For corn on the cob: Remove husks and silks and trim ends. Blanch medium-sized ears for eight minutes. Wrap each individually, and store in bags. Seal and label.
Cut into slices, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Pat dry and sauté gently in olive oil until just tender. Cool, pack, seal, and label.
For basil only, water or steam blanch 1 minute. For other herbs, blanching is not necessary. Freeze in a single layer on cookie sheet. Freezing pesto in ice cube trays and then popping the pesto cubes into a bag for easy dispersion is a handy and popular trick, but Jacques Pepin has a different take on this. He prefers not to freeze finished pesto and opts instead for freezing a basil puree that he then transforms into pesto after defrosting.
Shell garden peas, there’s no need to shell snow or sugar peas. Blanch for one and a half minutes, dry, pack, seal and label.
Peppers, from bell peppers to all types of chili peppers, are one of the vegetables that don’t require heat treatment. Freeze them whole or sliced.
Method 1: Wash, cut into halves, quarters or leave whole. Pat dry and pack into freezer bags. Remove air, label and seal. Method 2: Dip into boiling water 1 minute. Remove and peel. Place on a tray and freeze for 30 minutes. Place in plastic bags, remove air, seal and label. Method 3: Simmer chopped tomatoes in a pan for 5 minutes or until soft. Push through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. Cool and pack in plastic containers, leaving headspace.
Zucchini and summer squash
Wash, trim ends, cut into slices or strips and water blanch for three minutes. Pat dry, pack, seal, and label.
Do not use nail polish remover or other cleaners that contain acetone fro removing stains from triacetate. Acetone will dissolve it. Perfumes containing organic solvents may also harm it.
Cucumbers belong to the same plant family as squash, pumpkin, and watermelon (the Cucurbitaceae family). Like watermelon, cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 percent) water, which means eating them on a hot summer day can help you stay hydrated.
However, there’s reason to eat cucumbers all year long. With vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese, cucumbers can help you to avoid nutrient deficiencies that are widespread among those eating a typical American diet.
Plus, cucumbers contain unique polyphenols and other compounds that may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and much, much more.
9 Reasons to Eat Cucumbers
1. Protect Your Brain
Cucumbers contain an anti-inflammatory flavonol called fisetin that appears to play an important role in brain health. In addition to improving your memory and protecting your nerve cells from age-related decline, fisetin has been found to prevent progressive memory and learning impairments in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
Cucumbers contain polyphenols called lignans (pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol), which may help to lower your risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. They also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which also have anti-cancer properties. According to the George Mateljan Foundation:
“Scientists have already determined that several different signaling pathways (for example, the JAK-STAT and MAPK pathways) required for cancer cell development and survival can be blocked by activity of cucurbitacins.”
3. Fight Inflammation
Cucumbers may help to “cool” the inflammatory response in your body, and animal studies suggest that cucumber extract helps reduce unwanted inflammation, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes (including cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2).
4. Antioxidant Properties
Cucumbers contain numerous antioxidants, including the well-known vitamin C and beta-carotene. They also contain antioxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol, which provide additional benefits.
For instance, quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” Kaempferol, meanwhile, may help fight cancer and lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.
5. Freshen Your Breath
Placing a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth may help to rid your mouth of odor-causing bacteria. According to the principles of Ayurveda, eating cucumbers may also help to release excess heat in your stomach, which is said to be a primary cause of bad breath.
6. Manage Stress
Cucumbers contain multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.
7. Support Your Digestive Health
Cucumbers are rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber. Adding cucumbers to your juice or salad can help you meet the ideal of amount of fiber your body needs — 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. If you struggle with acid reflux, you should know that drinking water can help suppress acute symptoms of acid reflux by temporarily raising stomach pH; it’s possible that water-rich cucumbers may have a similar effect.
Cucumber skins contain insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.
8. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Cucumbers are very low in calories, yet they make a filling snack (one cup of sliced cucumber contains just 16 calories). The soluble fiber in cucumbers dissolves into a gel-like texture in your gut, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber-rich foods may help with weight control.
9. Support Heart Health
Cucumbers contain potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure levels. A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly.
As an electrolyte, potassium is a positive charged ion that must maintain a certain concentration (about 30 times higher inside than outside your cells) in order to carry out its functions, which includes interacting with sodium to help control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.
Cucumbers Make a Great Base for Vegetable Juice
There are many ways to enjoy cucumbers, such as fermented or raw in vinegar-based salads. If you’re looking for something different, cucumbers make an ideal base for your vegetable juice due to their mild flavor and high water content. In fact, a simple juice of cucumber and celery is ideal for those new to juicing.
From there you can work your way up to red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, and escarole, along with parsley and cilantro. Juicing is actually an ideal way to consume cucumbers.
When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without having to be broken down. When your body has an abundance of the nutrients it needs, and your pH is optimally balanced, you will feel energized and your immune system will get a boost.
Organic Cucumbers Are Worth It
If you’re wondering whether you should choose organic cucumbers over conventionally grown varieties, I’d suggest organic. Cucumbers were ranked the 12th most contaminated food and the second in cancer risk due to their pesticide content, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Further, cucumbers are often waxed after harvest to withstand the long journey to market unscarred and to protect against the many hands that touch it. While the wax is supposed to be food-grade and safe, there are different types used:
Carnauba wax (from the carnauba palm tree)
Shellac (from the lac beetle)
The natural waxes are far preferable to the petroleum-based waxes, which may contain solvent residues or wood rosins. Produce coated with wax is not labeled as such, but organic produce will not contain petroleum-based wax coatings (although it may contain carnauba wax or insect shellac).
The other potential issue is that wax seals in pesticide residues and debris, making them even more difficult to remove with just water. To reach the contaminants buried beneath the surface of your vegetables and fruits, you need a cleanser that also removes the wax, which is what my fruit and vegetable wash does. You could also peel the cucumber, but that is one of the most nutrient-dense parts of the cucumber (the other is the seeds), so it’s better to consume it if you can.
What Else Are Cucumbers Good For?
Flavonoids and tannins in cucumbers have been found to have both free-radical scavenging and pain-relieving effects, while it has a number of traditional folk uses as well. As written in the Journal of Young Pharmacists: “Traditionally, this plant is used for headaches; the seeds are cooling and diuretic, the fruit juice of this plant is used as a nutritive and as a demulcent in anti-acne lotions.”
As the fourth-most widely cultivated “vegetable” in the world (cucumbers are technically a fruit), cucumbers are widely available, but seek to get them from a local farmer’s market if you can. Even better, cucumbers are very easy to grow, even if you only have access to a patio. They thrive in containers (provide they have somewhere to climb on) and produce ample produce from a small number of plants, so you could try your hand at growing them yourself.
Cleaning Tip – Washing Vegetables
Do not use soap or detergents when washing produce.
You need not seek out a special produce wash to clean fruits and vegetables. Cool, clean, running tap water is fine.
Wash all produce before using, even if you are going to peel it.
The National Aviation Day (August 19) is a United States national observation that celebrates the development of aviation.
The holiday was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued a presidential proclamation which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday to be National Aviation Day (Mr. Wright, born in 1871, was still alive when the proclamation was first issued, and would live another nine years). The proclamation was codified (USC 36:I:A:1:118), and it allows the sitting US President to proclaim August 19 as National Aviation Day each year, if desired. Their proclamation may direct all federal buildings and installations to fly the US flag on that day, and may encourage citizens to observe the day with activities that promote interest in aviation.
Cleaning Tip – Vacuum Cleaners
Clumps of dust or other debris can clog a vacuum cleaners’ hose. One way to dislodge dirt is with a broom or mop handle inserted into the hose, working carefully to prevent puncturing the hose cover. If you vacuum has a paper bag change it as soon as you notice a suction drop, even if the bag doesn’t seem full. If you have a canister vacuum, empty the canister. Also make sure all filters are clean.
For avid gardeners, there’s no better way to enjoy the beauty and bounty of a summer garden than puttering around the yard attending to essential gardening tasks. These 10 late-summer gardening tips can help extend the summer season and ensure that your garden looks great year round.
1. Water, water everywhere
Water evaporates quickly in the dog days of summer, especially during mid-day. Water lawns and flowers beds early in the morning to give the vital moisture time to reach thirsty roots.
2. Grateful deadheads
Extend the life of late-summer blooming perennials by deadheading flowers as soon as they fade. Instead of expending their energy into seeds, they’ll continue to send out buds as long as the weather permits.
3. Mow lawns strategically
Raise the cutting height on your lawnmower. Longer blades of grass help keep the roots cooler on hot summer days. Cut grass in the cool of the evening to give the lawn time to recover.
4. Keep weeds at bay
It’s much easier to control weeds by pulling them out as soon as they appear than by tugging at them later after they’ve establish a strong root system.
5. Divide and conquer
Late summer is a good time to divide plants like peonies, day lilies and iris once the flowers have stopped blooming. Divided plants are less likely to succumb to pests and diseases as well.
6. Sharpen your pruning skills
A little time spent making a few artful cuts to shape a rose bush, shrub or tree can reward you with more flowers and thicker foliage. Attack suckers that spring from the base of a plant with a vengeance to prevent them from stunting the plant’s growth.
7. Convert clippings into mulch
Give young plants a bit of tender loving care with a mulch made of grass clippings from your lawn. Just make sure that the clippings are free of weeds and seeds.
8. Start composting
An alternative use for lawn clippings is to start a compost heap. Layer the clippings with soil and leftover vegetative waste from your kitchen. After a few months of decomposition, the matter will be transformed into nutrient-rich compost.
9. Stay on top of pest patrol
Keep on the lookout for damaging aphids. The tiny pests are easy enough to spray off with a hose if you catch them while their populations are small.
10. Shop for seeds
What better way to laze away a summer afternoon than by perusing seed brochures to get inspiration for next spring’s blooms? Order seeds now so that you’ll have time to plant them before the first frost hits.
You’ve no doubt earned your share of summer relaxation, so be sure to take time to sit back, breathe and take in the beautiful effects of your hard work. Just remember that investing a little time in pruning, planting and planning now can pay off later with a fall harvest and spring color.
Helpful Hint: Liquid fabric softener builds up in clothes over time and can cause all-cotton clothing like fleece or kids’ sleepwear to become more flammable. If you want to use a fabric softener with your all-cotton clothes, use a dryer sheet if their labels say it’s ok.