Looking at this photo, brings back memories of my summer at Quillisascut farm during my final year of naturopathic school. Working there I got the chance to live off the land and experience
the true locavore lifestyle. I also learned that eating locally doesn't have to end as we enter the colder months. Besides the abundance of autumn crops that will be arriving soon, we can hold on to summer by preserving our own food. Even though modern advances enables us to enjoy summer foods all year round, the carbon foot print from foods shipped from South America and even Asia needs to be considered. Here are a few of my favorite preserving methods that will still retain most of the nutritional benefits as well as gain a few new ones.
Forget those yucky bland mushy vegetables grandma use to serve. Home canning is a great way to preserve garden delectables as well as making amazing gifts. Despite what you might think canned produce do have nutritional value. Most minerals and fat-soluble vitamins are retained and their nutrient levels are stable for at least two years. Some foods actually become more beneficial when canned. For example, the powerful antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes is enhanced during canning. As is beta- carotene found in pumpkin and carrots. However, water soluble vitamins particularly vitamin C and B are depleted during canning. Another benefit is that by canning your own food, you don't have to worry about BPA which is commonly used in commercially canned foods. For more information on how to can, click here for the USDA's complete home canning guide.
You can pickle that!
More than just a silly sketch from last season's "Portlandia", pickling is another option in food preservation. When we pickle or ferment, we create an environment that is unfriendly to the microbes that cause food decay. We do this by using salt and sometimes selective bacteria to make conditions for beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus to thrive. Like with canning, fermentation does cause water-soluble vitamins to decrease. Leaving the skins on can help retain more of these vitamins. However, most minerals and fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K levels stay the same. Bacteria also produces Vitamin B12 with some fermented vegetable such as my favorite kimchi. Naturally fermented vegetables, also help to boost the gut's good bacteria giving rise to a host of health benefits. Although there are benefits, those on low salt diets will need to be careful in their consumption. With all my fermentation endeavors, my go-to-bible is Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation.
Perhaps you went a little crazy with the blueberry picking this year or for my Seattle friends all those amazing backyard blackberries. Berries in particular make great freezing candidates as their skins breakdown during the freezing process making proanthocyandins more bioavailable. Proanthocyanidins are super antioxidants that help protect the cardiovascular system as well as prevent cancer. Freezing is probably the easiest of the preserving methods and is the best for locking in nutrients and flavor. Fresh fruits and vegetables on the other hand lose nutrients, while in transit and storage. Even worse if you let them go limp in the back of your fridge. Ever wonder what to do with that leftover bunch of parsley or cilantro you bought for one of my latest recipes? Chop the herbs finely and place them in a freezer bag so you have it on hand for future recipes. For other tips on how to freeze some of your favorite fruits and vegetables, click here for the USDA's guide.