April is Homegrown Month at Tasting Table.
Tara Austen Weaver, author of the newly released Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught a Family to Grow (Ballantine, $26), is a realist when it comes to eating through the produce from her half-acre garden. "The truth of having a large garden is that you get sick of raspberries. At the end of two or three weeks of eating them every day, you just never want to see another one." So she does what gardeners have done for centuries and preserves the harvest into her year-round edible pantry.
Canning is often held up as a paragon of preservation technique, but Weaver calls her freezer her "superpower." "I love canning," she says but admits she did it a lot more before the garden. "You can either grow food, or you can preserve food. But if you have a full-time job, you can't do both," she laughs.
Although she dries oregano and marjoram, she freezes parsley (and recommends Margaret Roach's tutorial on how to do it), then plops individual portions into soup or risotto. Other herbs become pesto or chimichurri, frozen in ice cube trays. Later, she'll drop a cube into noodles, letting the heat melt the sauce into a quick dinner.
Most of what Weaver freezes is simple: kale or chard for soup. Fruit is destined for winter pie, jam or curd when she has more time. But the stars of the freezer are roasted cherry tomatoes, made using a simple Heidi Swanson recipe: Roast at 350 degrees for an hour with maple syrup, salt and olive oil. Mason jars hold zucchini confit made by simmering grated zucchini with olive oil, garlic, herbs and salt for an hour, with a little lemon juice at the end, when it becomes something akin to a savory spread. Weaver uses it widely: as omelet filling, stirred into pasta or rice, or dolloped onto crostini.
Beyond the freezer, Weaver advises gardeners overwhelmed with a crop to find neighbors and friends and share: "Having an abundance of food should never be a problem," she says.
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