Eat Local Later Now – Early Season Preservation Guide – UPDATED
Editor’s Note: As market shoppers know, seasons can flow week to week. All that asparagus is pretty much gone. Those sour cherries or apricots here now will be fleeting. The primary season of canning tomatoes and putting away potatoes is far away; it does not mean you should not continue to make plans for eating local later. Our updated guide is below.
Even with our Market Locator on the fritz, we are sure you find markets this time of year. There are at least 100 markets within the Chicago area, and if you cannot make it to a market, you can find local food at Green Grocer Chicago, the Dill Pickle Co-op or Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand. Eat local now. Eat local later too. Here’s some ideas for having what’s in season now, then.
We present this early season guide for a couple of reasons. Firstly, mostly, it is never too soon to think about eating local later; it does not take years of locavorism to know that times go lean for long periods around here. Preserve food now to ensure you can continue to eat local. Secondly, and nearly as key, many of the early season foods take well to preserving. Not only do peas take well to freezing, it almost makes more sense to freeze your pea purchase as peas lose their vitality very quickly. And peas are not the only thing like that. We have listed below the mostly likely crops you will find in the market this time of year with our favorite methods for preservation. Note, our more detailed primer and resource for Making the Most of the Seasonal Bounty (which is geared more to late season actions) can be found here.
Freeze – Have your friends ever tasted a fresh shelled pea. It’s an advertisement for our lifestyle. We also know that there is plenty of value in freezing peas. As with most vegetables, the peas need to be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiled water, before freezing. Note, when we say peas, we mean shelling or English peas. You can find good success freezing sugar snap and snow peas, but since we like those type of peas best raw, we’d rather keep those around to eat now.
Pickle – Crisp radishes take to pickles, and all sorts of cuisines have radish pickle recipes. You cannot go wrong with a “quick” pickle which can be little more than shredding plus salt and a few hours. We also love Korean style radish pickles with tons of hot pepper.
Freeze, jam, dry, booze - The first bountiful fruit of the season takes well to all methods of preservation, although we warn that frozen strawberries usually throw off a lot of liquid upon thawing. We also advise that if you dry strawberries you still store the finished product in the freezer for long distance. You can make many fine types of booze with your strawberries, especially if you have too many squashed ones. Leah Zeldes shows a good way to do it on LTHForum.
Rhubarb – UPDATE: At the start of July, rhubarb is mostly gone from the markets
Freeze – Melissa’s covered this one already
Salad Greens – UPDATE: At the start of July, the season for salad greens is waning as lettuces do not grow well in hot, hot weather. Get your greens now.
Stock/Soup – There can be a lot of lettuces or similar crops like rocket around this time of year. You may not get to as many salads as you want. Can anything be done with those browning leaves? We believe in making vegetable stock from your odds and ends, and things like lettuces can be just fine as stock builders. We also know, from the skilled hands of Chef Paul Virant at Vie, that lettuces make fine soups. You’ll make dreck if you freeze lettuce, but you’ll be pleased if you freeze lettuce soup.
Freeze – Since greens like kale, chard, turnip and mustard are rarely eat raw, freezing matters little to their use. A little blanching and there’s something for time ahead. Now, spinach you can make a salad, but it freezes well too.
Asparagus – UPDATE: Little asparagus left by July
Pickle – Michael informed us of the limitations of frozen asparagus. So, we advise finding a nice pickling recipe to extend the asparagus moment.
Store – I was not sure, without a CSA presently, if we’d have kohlrabi this season, but convinced by a good market price, we picked some up today. The best thing to do with a kohlrabi. Nothing. Actually, this bane of subscribers is much tastier than expected, one of the sweetest members of the cabbage family. We like kohlrabi raw and cooked. We just do not feel you need to be in a hurry to eat your kohlrabi. Kohlrabies will store for a very, very long time in your fridge. If the skins turn a little black, don’t worry because you peel it. Do not ignore kohlrabi. Just wait for the right moment.
Beets, carrots, turnips
Eat now – These are all root cellar fodder, but this is not the time of year to put these things down. It’s hard to find too much of a root cellar now, and the version of these crops out first deserve to be eaten as is.
Please share with us your efforts to eat local later. Also, let us know if we can help you make do for later.
New! – Cherries
Freeze – Since sour cherries are almost always used cooked, freezing matters little. The only question, pit now or pit on thaw.
New! – Apricots
Dry, fruit leather – The question really is, can you ever have enough apricots to put away. Our local crop is never huge because it’s a fragile endeavor for farmers. They’d rather put the land to use for peaches. Then, when those few apricots show up, they’re so delicious, who wants to forsake eating them. Apricots can be preserved many ways including jamming and the other ways peaches are preserved, but we all know that drying takes full advantage of apricot’s intense flavor. Unless you use sulfates, your home dried apricots will turn dark. So.
New! – Onions
Eat Now – More and more onions are coming into the markets, but summer onions are eat now onions. In fact, you should keep your summer onions in the fridge.