March 30th

theresa albert - my friend in food


Convenience Foods Redefined:Preserved Harvest


One of the great innovations of the 20th century was convenience food. Who could forget freeze-dried coffee, TV dinners, powdered mashed potatoes, Jiffy Pop and Space Food Sticks? Canned and frozen foods got busy moms on the go a head start on dinner and they were especially great for moms like mine who were stranded in the suburbs without a driver’s license. Forty years ago there wasn’t the plethora of grocery store chains and specialty foodie shops on every corner. In those days the mantra was “tear here, add water, stir.”

Today convenience foods, a.k.a. processed foods are taking a lot of heat because they’re often pumped full of preservatives and hard to pronounce chemicals and loaded with sugars and unnecessary carbs. Not to mention the environmental toll they take on the planet because of all the packaging and processing.

But processed doesn’t have to be dirty word. In fact it’s thanks to processing, preserving and packaging food that our ancestors made it through the cold, dark winters. Long before synthetic chemicals and refrigeration our forbearers had all sorts of great tricks for preserving their summer harvest so they didn’t starve through the winter.

You may be looking at your overflowing garden right about now and realizing that your eyes may have been bigger than your veggie patch. If you’re like me you’ve got pounds and pounds of tomatoes, onions, beans, greens, peppers, herbs, zucchini and eggplant appearing everywhere. You’ve eaten and eaten and given tons away too but still, the produce keeps on coming. You don’t want it to all end up as compost (although some of it should) so what the heck are you going to do with all that food? Make your own convenience food and eat your summer harvest all winter long.

Freeze It!

If time is of the essence for you, the best and easiest way to preserve your food is to put it in a freezer bag and throw it in the freezer. Tomatoes just need to be washed and the stem removed, you don’t even need to skin them. I freeze beans, broccoli, cauliflower and fennel, which are all great in soups. I even freeze grated zucchini, which can be used later for zucchini bread. Or if you have time you can bake the zucchini bread and freeze that, or make tomato sauce with your own basil and onions and freeze that. I even freeze borage flowers in ice cube trays for cutesy summer cocktails.

Pick it, bag it, freeze it. Easy.

Can It!

There has been a resurgence of interest in making jams and pickling. And why not? It’s fun, easy and really satisfying. Not to mention cost effective and super convenient. All you need is a canning kit, which is essentially a big pot for boiling and a few accessories, mason jars and fruit like peaches, cherries, strawberries or vegetables like beans or cucumbers. Your local hardware store will have everything you need to get started. Don’t be intimidated. All is not lost if your jam doesn’t set the first time, drizzle it on ice cream or add a teaspoon to plain yogurt or yogurt shakes.

Beets, beans and a variety of fruits store well in mason jars without those nasty preservatives or extra sugars.

Dry It!

All you have to do is harvest a bunch of basil, oregano, sage, rosemary or any of your herbs, turn them upside down, wrap a bit of string around the stems and hang them to dry. After about a week or so put the dried leaves in a paper bag, label and store in a cool dry place. Easy and so satisfying to use with your turkey in December.

Store It!

Thank goodness for onions, carrots, parsnips, garlic and winter squashes that are born and bred for storing. If done correctly these veggies will last well into spring.

You don’t have to wait until the fall to get started. These methods of preserving your harvest can happen throughout the spring and summer and into the fall. Give it a try and you see how a little work now will lead to months and months of tasty, nutritious and convenient food later.

Freeze edible Borage flowers for cutesy summer cocktails.



Arlene Hazzan Green is an urban farmer and television director with one foot in the dirt and one in high heels. Along with her husband Marc Green she founded The Backyard Urban Farm Company with the goal of igniting people’s passion for growing their own food. Together they design, install and maintain organic vegetable gardens in homes, schools and businesses in the Greater Toronto Area. For more info about Arlene please visit


2 Responses

    Skipper Tom
    August 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm Reply

    Read your article re “Good fats bad fats” has anyone asked you to check on a new way of thinking: “What if there was a cure for Alzheimer’s and no one knew”?
    in which a Dr Newport discusses since Alzheimers really is a post war disease
    when North America at least got very interested in fats and abandoned butter and other ‘fats’. maybe, our problem is diet, and that those old fashioned fats are better handled by our body. It might run against your traditional thinking, but having lost two relatives to Alzheimer’s this May and earlier, we the masses have
    a profound interest in this disease that the medical profession has no cure for.

    February 17, 2012 at 9:21 am Reply

    What’s up mates, its enormous article regarding tutoringand completely defined, keep it up all the time.

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