We're always looking for ways to save money on the grocery bill, and bulk buying is one way to do it. We never seem to think of vegetables though, because we keep thinking of them as something as that is perishable. While this is true, I've found several fall foods that fare well in storage with little, or even no preparation. What are these miracle foods that the fall harvest graces us with? Some of the most common vegetables used.
1. Winter squash is one of the fall foods at the top of my list to stock up on when the harvest hits the market. When kept in a cool dry area, such as a lower shelf in the back of the pantry, winter squashes usually keep for several months without refrigeration. Buying squashes such as acorn and spaghetti squash beginning in late August allows me to get them at around a third of the normal price on average. I also have the benefit of knowing that they will be at their fullest in flavor.
2. Pumpkins are a kind of winter squash, and yet, they are in a class all their own. Like other winter squash, pumpkins can be stored, unwashed, in cool dry places and keep for several months. I like to get a variety, including carving pumpkins, smaller pie pumpkins, and the tiny treat pumpkins that are especially good for making pumpkin apple bisque.
3. Fresh garlic ebbs its harvest in early fall, so prices tend to be at their best. Suppliers are trying to unload their inventory because the more garlic you have the harder it is to store. This works well for the home cook looking to pick up enough garlic to get through the fall and winter holidays in one go. Hang garlic in bags in a dry place, but not too cool or hot. Avoid letting the bags of garlic come in contact with other things while hanging or rest on surfaces, as this tend to promote bruising and eventually decay.
4 & 5. Carrots and parsnips are basically the same when it comes to use and storage. They both go great in soups and stews, and make great bases for sauces when pureed. They're added to thousands of different fall and winter recipes around the world, but their growing season ends in late fall. The good news is that both of these fall foods freeze really well. If you're not sure what you're going to be using them for you can freeze them whole. If you do, you can prepare them before freezing by skinning a cutting to the preferred size and shape.
5 & 6. Broccoli and cauliflower are another set of fall foods that go hand in hand for use and storage. Like carrots and parsnips they freeze well. Unlike them, however, broccoli and cauliflower should both be prepared before freezing. Removed crowns from stems, wash, and dry before storing in an airtight bags and placing in the freezer. A lot of people like to quickly blanch their broccoli before storing, as this helps it to retain a bright green while in the deep freeze.
7. Colored bell peppers, such as red bell peppers, are at their sweetest and most flavorful when harvested in the fall. There are many ways to store them too. Sweet bell peppers can be roasted and then canned or frozen. They can be dried or sun dried, then hung in a dry cool place. They can even be frozen raw. One thing to remember when freezing raw bell peppers is that they will not be crisp when they thaw out, so don't plan on using them for salads. Freezing this fall food does not ruin the flavor however, so they make great additions to soups, stews, casseroles, and stuffings.