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Did you buy a little too much at this week’s farmers market? Is your garden ripening faster than you can eat it? Did your plans to eat it get derailed by invitations to go out to eat or late nights at work with no time to cook?

Kudos to you for planning all of those healthy meals with fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t worry, they don’t have to go to waste. Preserving foods at peak of ripeness saves the intense fresh flavors so you can enjoy them later.

  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes can be preserved in so many ways. The easiest is to freeze them whole, then thaw and puree in a blender or food processor to use in chili, soups or sauces. To save space in your freezer, puree them first, cook them down into a sauce and pour in quart storage bags to freeze.
  • Berries, kale, spinach: All three can be frozen for smoothies. Berries can be mixed into pancake or muffin batter or used in desserts such as cobbler and pie. The kale and spinach can be added to soups, casseroles or pureed to sneak into your kid’s favorite burgers, pasta sauces or tacos.
  • Zucchini, summer squash: Shred fresh with a cheese grater and freeze in serving-size storage bags. Add the shreds to soups, stews, casseroles or mix into meatloaf, meatballs or tacos for an almost invisible way to sneak in some veggies.
  • Herbs: Herbs can be dehydrated in food dehydrator, microwave or any room with warm and dry air. To freeze, cover in olive oil in ice cube trays or a snack-size storage bag.
  • Beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots: These vegetables must be cleaned, cut into edible-sized portions, and blanched before freezing to cleanse the surface of dirt and organisms. It also stops enzyme actions that can cause the loss of flavor, color and texture. To blanch simply drop the vegetables into a pot of boiling water, let the water return to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain the water and drop vegetables into a bowl of ice water until cool, then drain, place into storage bags and freeze.

For more information about preserving fresh produce, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation at nchfp.uga.edu. 

Kiehnau is a Greater Green Bay YMCA certified personal trainer and wellness coach. Reach her at 920-436-9622 or nancy.kiehnau@greenbayymca.org.

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