Joel In The Garden

Veggies growing fast: Here's how to keep up

Veggies growing fast: Here's how to keep up
What's all the buzz about?

EUGENE, Ore. — Sunny days mean garden plants are growing rapidly.

That also means gardeners have to pick some of their vegetables quickly or they’ll grow too large and won't taste very good.

But there’s a cheap way you can preserve your produce to keep it fresher longer.

From tomatoes to peppers, this is prime growing weather.

“Especially the squash is really taking off. You have lots of zucchini growing,” Nellie Oehler said.

Oehler is an OSU Extension faculty member for Lane County.

When it comes to your pea plants, you don't want to leave them on the vine too long. Because in this heat, they can go bad in a hurry. Some people like to use a knife to trim them off, but a pair of scissors works fine too.

“If you keep picking them, they'll keep producing. If you let them get way out of control, then they kind of stop producing,” Oehler said.

Now, if you want these veggies to last longer than couple weeks, you're going to have to blanch them. Blanching is an important process for food preservation.

“You want to kill the enzymes. And by killing the enzymes, it won't continue to mature in the freezer,” Oehler said. “If you don't, they get an off flavor. They get tough. They get rubbery.”

First, just wash the vegetables, then chop them uniformly. Next, toss them into a boiling pot of water.

“Zucchini just takes one to two minutes and you can steam them, just so they're heated through,” Oehler said. “Small batches can even be done in the microwave.”

Once you take your produce out of the boiling water, immediately soak them in cold water.

Finally, you can portion them out in bags. A vacuum sealer is ideal, but you can also use freezer bags. Just try and force as much air out of the bags as possible. That should guarantee your vegetables will keep their flavor for months. 

This week, the OSU Extension Service reopened its food preservation hotline for anyone who has questions about food preservation. You can call 1-800-354-7319. The hotline is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.