Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Keeping up appearances

For weeks, I've been bragging on all the fresh vegetables coming in - with posts that might as well have been titled "eggcelent eggplants," "bully for basil" and so on. But last night I realized that my most pressing food issue has ceased to be, "What is the best and most succulent way to prepare this?" and has instead become, "How do I keep all this from going bad?"

So the beets that had been sitting patiently in the crisper (patience is one of beets' virtues) have become beet soup, to be stored in the freezer until further notice. The last lonely ear of corn was microwaved and devoured with plum paste. The okra ... Well, the okra has been rearranged and fretted over, and eventually I may figure out what to do with it.

There appear to be three main strategies for dealing with this overflow:

One is storing vegetables cleverly, so that they remain fresher longer in the fridge. The second is preserving them somehow for longer-term storage. The Internet contains a wealth of information on both. (The third is leaving a basket of veggies on your neighbor's porch, ringing the doorbell, and running. I didn't research this option any further, since I'm not running anywhere in this heat.)

But, back to the first option: The University of Nebraska has an exhaustive guide to harvesting and storing fresh veggies here. And, proving that food storage is an international issue, the Toronto Vegetarian Association has a page of "Tips on Buying and Storing Whole Foods" here.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension has links to a broad range of publications on "Food Preservation and Safety for Consumers, on this page. (The same page has links for commercial food safety, too - just click the link or scroll down the page to find the consumer info.)

And the National Center for Home Food Preservation has information and links on all aspects of this issue. Just ignore the stuff about smoking fish (the whole "cured & smoke" section is full of unpleasantries), and concentrate on such vital issues as chocolate-sauce safety.

Readers, do you have any failsafe tips on keeping food edible? Or – please, oh, please -- any suggestions on how to use okra?

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