Q. My summer garden is producing a lot right now. I have cucumbers, beets and herbs coming out of my ears! Do you have any suggestions on new ways to use these besides canning?
A. Summer is a great time to focus on eating more vegetables, and it’s easier than ever when there is an abundance of fresh, colorful vegetables in the garden and grocery store! Dial up the flavor on summer vegetable favorites with herbs and spices that can bring big flavor to your table. Adding spices and herbs is easy to do, costs pennies per serving and can offer a healthy boost!
The right type of herb typically depends on what you cook. Both fresh and dried spices can be used in different ways to add flavor and nutrition. Fresh herbs add the most nutritional benefit. Add them at the end of cooking to add a boost of fresh flavor and visual appeal.
Use a 3:1 ratio fresh to dry in recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon dried basil, use 3 teaspoons fresh basil. Fresh herbs can be stored for two weeks in the refrigerator while dried herbs can be kept in a dark pantry for six months and dried spices up to three years.
Fruit and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Aim to eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Pickling is another way to add variety and work color into a healthy diet! Quick pickles, also known as refrigerator pickles, do not require canning and are easy to do.
Simply soak veggies or fruit in a brine in the fridge to preserve them. Try using a combination of fresh and dried herbs and spices to add flavor when pickling. Fresh herbs like dill, thyme and oregano hold up well while ground spices like turmeric and paprika add great flavor and color! The longer they soak, the better they get!
Check out the recipes below for quick pickling ideas.
Pickled Cucumbers with Shallots
All you need:
• 1 ½ English cucumbers, sliced
• 3 shallots, thinly sliced
• 1 tablespoon dill seed
• 7 fresh dill sprigs
Pickled Yellow Beets
All you need:
• 4 medium yellow beets, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 7 fresh basil leaves
All you need:
• 1 cup water
• 1 cup Hy-Vee white distilled vinegar
• 1 tablespoon Hy-Vee granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoon pickling salt
Herbs and/or spices (see Cucumbers with Shallots recipe and Yellow Beets recipe above)
All you do:
Fill a quart jar with desired fresh fruits and/or vegetables (see pickling recipes options above).
Combine water, distilled vinegar, sugar and pickling salt in a small saucepan.
Add herbs and/or spices
Bring mixture to boil, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
Pour hot brine over fruits and/or vegetables in jar.
Cool, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving or store up to 2 weeks.