Preserve Fresh Produce to Enjoy in Winter

Preserve Fresh Produce to Enjoy in Winter

Is preserving fresh produce hard?

As the growing season quickly fades away, many gardens, CSAs, farmers’ markets, and farm stands are selling the last of their vegetables, fruits, and herbs. It is the time of year to ask, “How can I preserve delicious produce, such as tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini, and green beans, to enjoy during  the winter months?”

Fortunately, techniques such as canning, freezing and dehydrating allow us to enjoy our favorite vegetables, fruits, and herbs all year long. Preserving food need not be complicated and may take only an hour or two out of your day.  Not only can you enjoy the rewards of eating fresh-tasting produce year-round, but you can also prevent food waste. Any peelings and scraps from your harvest can be used to make vegetable stock, and any inedible bits can be added to your compost pile. You can reuse your preserving cans, plastic containers, and even plastic bags to further reduce your carbon footprint.

For resources on preserving your favorite vegetables, fruit, and herbs, check in with your library, favorite local bookstore, or Goodwill. 

Here are a few recipes that are pretty simple:
Preserving Roasted Tomato, Garlic, and Basil


  • 25 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, stemmed and cored. If using more petite tomatoes, use 2 or 3 for every tomato required in the recipe.
  • 1-1/2 large heads of garlic, divided into unpeeled cloves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 sprigs of basil, chiffonade


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Cut the tomatoes into quarters or in half for petite tomatoes. 
  3. Place the tomatoes, garlic, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  
  4. Place the tomato mixture on two large, rimmed baking sheets (can use Silpat or parchment paper to line sheets) and pour any olive oil left in the bowl over them.
  5. After 20 minutes of baking, you may remove the skins.  Skins can be left on for added nutritional value, as they are a great source of antioxidants.
  6. Roast the tomatoes, garlic, and basil for 15-20 minutes longer, until the mixture is slightly thickened. If it is not, continue to cook further, being sure to watch so that it does not burn.  
  7. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets. 
  8. Divide and transfer the tomatoes, garlic, and basil into separate containers. You may use a kitchen scale to weigh tomatoes in 8-, 14-, and 28-ounce increments.  
  9. Store the mixture in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Preserving Whole Kernel Sweet Corn

Bring the freshness of summer to your autumn or winter table!  This sweet corn will be a delicious addition to a weekday winter meal or your Thanksgiving dinner table. This recipe for freezing sweet corn is adapted from the Ball Corp. (1989). Freezing. In Blue Book: The guide to home canning and freezing (32nd ed., pp. 86–89). essay. 


  • Eight ears of sweet corn


  1. It is essential to select tender, freshly gathered corn in the milk stage.  Husk and trim the ears, remove silks, and wash.
  2. In an 8.5 quart pot with a lid, fill with water until about half full.  Bring water to a rolling boil.
  3. Add 5 or 6 ears of sweet corn (depending upon size) to the boiling water.  Allow the water to return to a boil, and boil the sweet corn for 5-6 minutes. This is known as blanching, which cleanses surface dirt of any  organisms, brightens the color, and helps retain flavor, vitamins, and nutrients.
  4. While the sweet corn is boiling, create an ice bath by filling a large 4-quart bowl with ice cubes and cold water.
  5. After the sweet corn has been blanched, quickly place one to two corn cobs into the ice bath to stop the cooking process.  After 60 seconds, remove the corn from the ice bath and put it in a colander to drain while you repeat the process with the other ears of corn.  
  6. When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob.
  7. Pack corn kernels in reusable plastic freezer bags or containers, ensuring they are adequately sealed.  If using freezer bags, be sure to remove all air from the bag before labeling and freezing.
  8. To use: Cook frozen vegetables as you would with fresh produce, but with a shorter cooking time as they were partially cooked before freezing.
Preserving Fresh Green Beans

Green beans from the garden make an excellent dish cooked alone or in soups and salads.  This is an easy way to preserve green beans for the fall and winter months ahead.


  • 2 pounds fresh tender green/yellow string beans


  1. In a large 6-quart pot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil.  Drop the green beans into the water and bring water back to a boil for 3 minutes until tender but still crisp.
  2. While the green beans are boiling, create an ice bath by filling a large 4-quart bowl with ice cubes and cold water.
  3. Transfer the beans with a slotted spoon into the ice bath, which stops the cooking process.  Stir a couple of times and then drain the green beans.
  4. On a small baking sheet that will fit in your freezer, lined with a Silpat (which helps to reduce the waste of parchment, waxed paper, or aluminum foil), line green beans into straight-line formations. Freeze.  
  5. Once beans are frozen, remove them from the baking sheet and pack them into reusable plastic freezer bags or containers, ensuring they are adequately sealed.  If using freezer bags, be sure to remove all air from the bag before labeling and freezing.
  6. To use: Cook frozen vegetables as you would with fresh produce, but with a shorter cooking time as they were partially cooked before freezing.
Vegetarian Zucchini Lasagna Parmesan

Vegetarian Zucchini Lasagna Parmesan

Zucchini is abundant this time of year and there are so many fantastic recipe ideas that use this wonderful vegetable. Zucchini can be shredded and put into sustainable containers and then stored in your freezer for future use in the fall and winter seasons. Zucchini Lasagna Parmesan is a delicious, satisfying cuisine served with a side salad and garlic bread.

Serves 8 or delicious leftovers.

  • 2 medium-large zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 – 28 ounce jar of marinara sauce
  • 1 cup panko or breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp water

Mix in a small bowl:

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil
  • 2 – 3 tbsps fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Orange Cauliflower
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  • Line 2 – 11×17 baking sheets with parchment paper 
  • In a medium-sized bowl, mix eggs and water.  
  • On a large plate, distribute panko or breadcrumbs evenly.
  • Trim ends off the zucchini and slice lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Brush both sides with herb mixture, dip into the egg mixture, and then into panko or breadcrumbs making sure both sides are coated, and place slices in a single layer on parchment paper. Bake approximately 20- 30 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  • In a 9×13 rectangular casserole dish, brush the bottom and sides with olive oil. 
  • Lightly coat the bottom of the casserole dish with 1/4 cup marinara sauce. Add one layer of zucchini slices (3 – 4), followed by 3 -4 tablespoons of ricotta cheese on each piece. Coat a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cover cheeses with 1/4 – 1/2 cup marinara sauce or more if needed, as you would make regular lasagna. Continue this layering process till all slices of zucchini are used. You should have 3 – 4 layers.
  • Bake immediately for 30 – 40 minutes or till bubbly. 
    Chef Yvonne Dwyer

    Recipe compliments of OPL Naturalist and Home Chef Yvonne Dwyer

    OPL Plant-rich Recipes

    Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

    Going Green: Wedding Celebration With a Helpful Twist

    Going Green: Wedding Celebration With a Helpful Twist

    An environmentally conscientious couple creates a bohemian fairy garden wedding that’s kind to the planet.

    How did they do it? First, it takes two multi-talented individuals, such as the bride and groom, Taylor and Nick. Both grew up learning and caring about our environment from family, education, and activities such as scouting, horse care, and stable management. Their knowledge, expertise, and outdoor experiences include working as whitewater rafting guides, ski/snowboard patrollers, protecting and managing natural resources through the conservation core, and providing community medical care. They are both highly conscientious of the importance of conservation, preservation, and sustainability in our waterways and land. 

    Planning a dream wedding that was kind to the planet was a priority. 

    Together they created a plan to use sustainable resources which could be recycled, reused, repurposed, and composted. They recruited family and friends to help make their dream wedding come true.   

    From the flowers to the furnishings and food, Taylor and Nick carefully planned every aspect of the wedding to be sustainable and beautiful.

    The planning began approximately a year and a half in advance when the bride’s mother planted a perennial wildflower pollinating garden where the ceremony would take place. This garden, located in scenic central Pennsylvania, required tilling by the bride’s stepfather as it is a rock garden. Wildflowers seeds, including Coreopsis, Cosmos, Brown-Eyed Susans, Indian Blanket, Evening Primrose, Eastern Columbine, and Coneflower, provided pollen, nectar, and shelter for hundreds of important species, namely Monarch butterflies, native bees, and insects such as grasshoppers.

    The couple collected five used living room furniture sets and rugs for the reception from various estate and yard sales.

    The accessories to complete the rooms were purchased, rented, or borrowed from family members and friends. The married couple sold the living room furniture pieces to those interested in purchasing them after the celebration.

    Local Book Store
    Local Book Store

    Taylor and Nick rented large tents to add shelter in inclement weather. 

    Rustic tables, chairs, narrow table runners, chandeliers, and other accessories were also rented from local vendors such as Rustic Event Rentals. The owner, Holly Mitchell, had a vision after she married in 2016 to rent sustainable collected pieces reasonably priced for special events such as this. An assortment of clear, green, and brown bottles was saved and used to hold candles, wildflowers, and ferns. These bottles will be recycled, reused, or repurposed for future events. Finally, the moss, pine fir, pinecones, ferns, and wildflowers were all returned to the forest or wildflower garden.

    The ceremony took place at dusk when the summer sky was illuminated with hues of various shades of blue, pink, orange, yellow, and white.

    The wildflowers and vibrant sky were the backdrops for the wedding photographs. As part of the ceremony, the couple planted an Eastern Hemlock Spruce tree, an evergreen tree native to eastern North America, and the Pennsylvania state tree.

    The wedding food consisted of beautiful handmade charcuterie boards handcrafted by Proudfit-Made. Each platter featured fresh and dried fruit, vegetables, nuts, assorted cheeses, jams, and crackers. Family and friends contributed with warm hors d’oeuvres, cookies of all kinds, and a full bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The homemade red velvet naked cake, baked by the groom and decorated by an aunt, was beautifully decorated with freshly washed and dried ferns. The tiered cookie and cake stand, wooden plates, bar, and wooden mountains with fairy lights were handcrafted by the groom and later given to those interested who attended the celebration.  

    Bamboo plates, utensils, and napkins were all compostable.

    Individual drinking glasses were provided so guests could write their names on them, making it easy to identify them. These glasses and cookies were part of their takeaway gift. Recycle bins were placed discretely throughout, and nearly all the trash collected could be recycled.

    Why would this couple go to this extent of creating such a venue? Because they care about our environment and are passionate about conservation, preservation, and sustainability with our planet’s future and its inhabitants in mind. Congratulations to this beautiful couple, Taylor and Nick, on a creative, well-thought-out, green (in more ways than one) wedding celebration for all who attended to remember.

    Hearty Mediterranean Ratatouille

    Hearty Mediterranean Ratatouille

    Mediterranean Vegetable Stew. This is a delicious recipe alone or with pasta and a side salad. The flavors of garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers make this a wonderful delicious dish from your garden or farmers market.

    Preparation Time: 45 minutes (if using canned tomatoes)

    Yield: 4 – 6 Servings

    • 3 Tbsp olive oil
    • Four medium cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 2 cups onion, chopped
    • One bay leaf
    • One medium eggplant, cubed
    • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil or 3 tbsp fresh basil
    • 1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh oregano
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary or 1 tsp fresh rosemary
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme
    • One medium zucchini, cubed
    • Two medium bell peppers, chopped.
    • Fresh ground black pepper
    • Five medium-large tomatoes (blanched & skin removed; see note) or 1 14 1/2 oz canned
    • tomatoes
    • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped 
    • 2 tbsp capers or minced olives
    • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper seeds
    • Fresh parmesan cheese
    Butternut Squash


    1. In a dutch oven or 8-quart saucepan, add olive oil. Add garlic, onion, and bay leaf.

    2. Sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

    3. Add eggplant, salt, and herbs and stir. Cover and cook over medium heat, occasionally stirring about 15 to 20 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.

    4. Add zucchini, bell peppers, black pepper, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or until the zucchini and bell peppers are tender.

    5. Stir in capers, crushed red pepper seeds, and parsley.

    6. Serve hot over linguine (or other pasta, couscous, or quinoa) with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese.

    To blanch tomatoes:

    In a 6-quart saucepan, fill up to 2/3 with water. Bring water to a boil. Rinse tomatoes and mark an x on the bottom with a sharp paring knife. Add tomatoes to boiling water. While cooking, fill a large bowl with ice water to cool off tomatoes once blanched. In about 3 -4 minutes, the skin on the tomatoes will begin to separate from the fruit. This signals that it is time to remove. tomatoes from the water and quickly put them into the cold water to stop the cooking process. Peel the skin from the tomatoes. Chop and add to the stew.

    Chef Yvonne Dwyer

    Recipe compliments of OPL Naturalist and Home Chef Yvonne Dwyer

    OPL Plant-rich Recipes

    Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

    Movement of the Monarch: The Importance of Pollinators

    Movement of the Monarch: The Importance of Pollinators

    Each year the Monarch Butterflies migrate through North America to/from the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in Mexico (which is protected by the Mexican government). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “The monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do.” 

     These butterflies are pollinators, and they play a crucial role in the health of our ecosystem as they carry pollen from flower to flower aiding in plant reproduction. The Monarch Butterfly appears to love a variety of milkweed common with mauve flowers, pink swamp, and butterfly milkweed.

     Unfortunately, the population of Monarch butterflies has been declining for several reasons: 

    • Commercial and residential development has destroyed suitable summer habitats; there are simply not enough milkweed plants for the 700 eggs and babies to lay.   
    • With a short supply of plants, these butterflies will lay their eggs wherever is available, and a high population in one area is a huge problem as they are attacked by flies, wasp predators, and disease.  
    • Climate change is another major problem as monitoring the past 3-10 years weather patterns have demonstrated heavy rains and freezing temperatures causing massive mortality of 50 to 80 percent of the population.

    The good news is that Monarch Way Stations have been created to conserve and protect the declining Monarch Butterfly population throughout their journey. 

     These stations, gardens, and meadows provide milkweed, nectar sources, and shelter. It is wonderful to witness the amount of attention around how important our pollinators are to our ecosystem. No matter what roadside milkweed bank, meadow, garden, or park is visited, we are fortunate to witness some amazing beautiful butterflies.

     What can you do as an individual to aid in creating a habitat which would enable pollinators to thrive and multiply?  The American dream of a yard looking like a highly manicured golf course has been the demise of many pollinators. Try creating a space in your backyard devoted to native plants that bloom from spring to autumn; it may look a little messy but will support a home for a host of pollinators. The beauty is two-fold: these native wildflowers will reseed themselves, becoming a low-maintenance garden where there is not only beauty amongst the flowers, but the attractions of butterflies, bees, moths, hummingbirds, and birds. 

     As volunteers, members of citizen science, getting involved is so easy as there are numerous programs for all ages to participate include counting, tagging, and releasing monarch butterflies through the North American Butterfly Association, sponsored walks, home ecologists children’s programs, national, state, county, and city parks throughout our nation.  

     I was so excited when the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) offered me an opportunity to release a third-generation monarch who will fly and make its way to Mexico.  Wishing you a safe journey. Fly baby fly!


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