is, well, wilting. So when spring threatens to wind down and summer temperatures take up residence in my steamy backyard, I have to focus on the good to keep from curling up in my refrigerator and waiting for cooler days and Friday night football games to return. The one redeeming factor of Oklahoma summers (yep, there's only one) is the abundance of fresh produce for cheap prices. Farmers' markets (a recent trend in the Tulsa area), local produce stands and nearby farms have me almost giddy about summer again. This year, being a SAHM, I have had more time than usual to really explore and try all the different local produce stands to find my favorites. I've also had time to dream about fresh summer meals topped with yummy romantic toppings, like. . .arugula. That just sounds fresh and healthy, doesn't it?
While my fridge is brimming with organic raspberries (only $3 at Sam's!), blueberries (if only they were fresh-picked from MI, sigh), tomatoes, corn that melts in your mouth and cucumbers that beg to be crunched between my teeth, I am keenly aware that this bounty of fresh foods is only for a season and soon winter days will once again draw me toward comfort-food baked dishes begging for a least a hint of veggies in their thick batters.
So, why not bring summer to winter? There are certainly ways to stock up and hold on to the fresh all year long.
The first step is to invest in a bigger freezer. Right now we only have the stock freezer sitting atop our fridge, and since it is already filled with ready-to-grill-at-a-moment's-notice items, there is little room left for frozen veggies or fruits. I've noticed a reasonably priced external freezer available at Sam's, and I'm sure they're even more to find with a little hunting.
Step two: stock up. By a few extra ears of corn (or buy a dozen at a time at your local farmer's market), and when you're finished with dinner, throw the rest of the ears in boiling water for just a minute or two, then cool, shave the corn off with a big knife, and stock the remains in freezer bags. Don't forget to label and date the bags!
Sam's always has bigger-than-my-family-eats-in-one-week quantities of fruit, so take the leftovers, stick them in a freezer bag, and stash them away before they start to grow hairy.
Step three: Take up canning. I don't have any storage in my current house, so I'm saving this step for a bit later, but if you have the room, by all means, get to canning. In Michigan, we had a basement with a shelf reserved just for canned items. We canned beans, jams, pickles (my personal fav), and tomatoes. Other friends canned fruits and pie fillings. Yum, my mouth is watering. When I tackle canning, I'll blog about it. But until then, canned dill pickles will continue to haunt me in my dreams.
It doesn't have to be an entire day's worth of work to stock up. Start with buying a little more and freezing the leftovers. Come the crazy ice storms of January, you'll be glad you did.
ps. Thanks, Mom, for the inspiration :)