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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

5 Ways to Flex Your Garden-processing Muscle

John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
Hobby Farms Contributors

Beans, zucchini, tomatoes and more await processing, and we as cooks need a late-summer recharge. Photo courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Beans, zucchini, tomatoes and more await processing, and we as cooks need a late-summer recharge.

Those lingering August days bring an annual summer rite of passage to our farmstead kitchen at Inn Serendipity: the kitchen counter covered with the garden harvest. From beans to broccoli to heaps of tomatoes, we’re thankful for Mother Nature’s abundance but would like to see that countertop again.

We need a recharge and reboot of our enthusiasm for garden processing around this time of year. The strawberry jam we so enthusiastically watched simmering on the stove back in June is a faded memory, and we feel overwhelmed by the increasing zucchini pileup on the counter. Just as you want to change up your gym workout routine for better training, shake up your garden-processing routine to add a needed late-summer boost. Here are some “training tactics” that worked in our kitchen:

1. Create a kitchen playlist.
Use Pandora, a free Internet radio site, to add a fresh, customized soundtrack to your processing-kitchen scene. Lisa is quite fond of a Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra mix, classy catchy swing tunes that make blanching those beans feel like a swanky party.

2. Add a new tool.
Is there something that would make your processing easier and save time? We’re addicted to kitchen shears, something we can maneuver much easier than a knife. Shears make things like chopping spinach for blanching especially easy.

3. Involve the kids.
There’s always something kids can do to help with processing. When our son, Liam, was little, he was in charge of shelling peas. Now 10 years old, he’s advanced to some supervised knife jobs. But more than providing extra hands, sharing kitchen time with your children opens up ample time for conversation.

4. Listen to books on tape.
Just like on a long car road trip, listening to a good book on tape makes the hours go by fast in the kitchen. This summer Lisa and Liam listened to one of Liam’s favorite books while processing together: The Candy Shop War, by Brandon Mull, turned washing and coring tomatoes into an interactive book club.

5. Break It Down
With all the other garden and farm chores going on, we often don’t get started on the food processing to-do list until after supper. By that time of day, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of everything that needs to be processed, so break things down. Do one step in the evening and then finish up when you’re fresher in the morning (especially important if you are, like Lisa, not a night owl). For example, at night, Lisa will wash and chop the Swiss chard and then refrigerate; first thing the next day, she’ll blanch, cool and pack the chard.

Here’s to finishing the summer garden processing marathon and savoring all our hard work around the cozy woodstove all winter long!

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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