Processing Sixty Pounds of Vegetables From a Food Box

Yesterday I told you about my experience with getting a vegetable food box from Church for the Nations.

Today I’m going to tell you what it took to process all those vegetables. At no time is my refrigerator empty enough to fill it with sixty pounds of vegetables and while we eat a lot of vegetables, sixty pounds is too much to try and eat before it starts to go bad. I didn’t want to waste these lovely vegetables.

So first of all, here’s the photo again of what I got:

Church for the Nations Vegetable Box February 26th, 2011

And here’s a list of items and their weight:

  • Watermelon, seedless, 19 pounds
  • 9 English Cucumbers, 7 pounds
  • 9 eggplants, 7 pounds
  • 10 yellow bell peppers, 5 pounds
  • 17 red plum tomatoes, 7 pounds
  • 15 yellow tomatoes, 7 pounds
  • 23 green chili peppers, 3 pounds
  • 30 jalapeno peppers, 2 pounds
  • 15 oranges, 4 pounds

From the top:

The watermelon was refrigerated and later sliced for dessert.

I decided to dry most of the nine cucumbers using my Nesco American Harvest Food Dehydrator:

Cucumbers Before and After Dehydration

My Nesco works great, but one day soon I plan to invest in the Excalibur 9 Tray Dehydrator.  Because of the square trays you can fit a lot more in at once and it would sure help when bringing home sixty pounds of vegetables from Market on the Move!  It is also great for making beef jerky!

For the eggplants, I saved two to eat this week, and peeled the rest with my Zyliss Soft Skin Peeler, sliced them and placed them into bags and sealed using my FoodSaver Smart Seal Vacuum Sealer. I peeled the eggplant as I have found in the past that the skin of frozen eggplant seems much tougher than when cooked fresh.

I decided to freeze all but four of the bell peppers. I diced two and learned that you have to freeze some raw vegetables because the food sealer sucks the liquid out of the vegetable and then the bag won’t seal properly. I wasted almost an entire bag trying to figure out why it wouldn’t work.

I froze both of these vegetables without blanching. I know the bell peppers will be fine, but I am not sure about the eggplant. I can always put it into soup if the texture is off due to freezing it directly instead of blanching.

Frozen and Sealed Eggplant and Bell Peppers

I decided to dry most of the tomatoes also. I peeled and seeded some, and others I sliced a quarter-inch thick and dried them into slices. These were so yummy I kept taking pieces from the dehydrator and snacking on them throughout the day.

Tomatoes Before and After Dehydration

As for the peppers, I turned on the broiler in the oven, stuck them in a metal pan and turned them every few minutes, allowing them to burn on all sides. Once they were removed from the oven I stuck them in a big bowl and covered with some aluminum foil so that the skins would be easy to remove. In the photo on the left you can see the reflection of the broiler element on the top of the oven.

Green Chiles Roasted Under the Broiler

So far the oranges have been eaten, but if there are any left by the weekend I will juice them.

And that is how you process sixty pounds of vegetables in two days time. I think this food box is available once a month, and that would work out pretty good as it is a lot of work and takes a lot of commitment of time to prepare everything for storage.

Also as the weather starts to heat up in Arizona, if they continue the food box through to the summer I will have to bring an ice chest and maybe even ice to keep the vegetables chilled on the way home, so it may not be worth my while during the heat of summer. But for now I think it is a good opportunity.

Remember this vegetable box is for anyone, you do not have to qualify. Also, you do not have to take sixty pounds of produce. If you are a single person and only want to take a week’s worth of produce and felt you would get your money’s worth, then pay your $10 and take as few items as you feel would be worth your while. I say this for people who are in the Phoenix area and want to check into this food box.

You may also need these fine screen inserts for your Nesco if you are dehydrating small items such as blueberries or grapes as once dry they will fall through the cracks of the regular trays:

These smooth trays are perfect for making fruit leather or fruit roll ups:

And this book by Mary Bell is THE bible on dehydrating. I have found it extremely helpful when dehydrating vegetables and fruits as she goes into some detail on the process.  This is also a great book to have for self-preparedness, surviving a disaster, or just for creating food to go hiking or camping. You will be amazed at all the foods you can dehydrate.

 

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