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Depending on where you live and when you planted your garden, you’ve most likely been enjoying the fruits of your labor. We’ve had a good year, though it’s been difficult to keep the birds away.
One of the best things about having your own garden is that you can walk right out into your backyard and pick some fresh produce and eat it right there, on the spot. No running to the grocery store or the farmer’s market, no standing in line, no $4 for a pound of strawberries, and no pesticides or other “unknowns” to wash off.
But what about your excess harvest? We’ve produced way more food than we can handle all at once, and so we’ve had to consider our options when it comes to preserving our ‘leftover’ vegetables. What follows is an overview of some of the things you’ll need, as well as an indication of the costs involved.
Freezing is one of the easiest ways to store vegetables, and if you blanch (i.e., ‘flash boil’) the vegetables before you freeze them, they will retain their nutrients much better and keep much longer. We’ve been able to freeze some of just about everything, expect our spinach.
- Cost: Super cheap
- Needs: A box of Ziploc freezer bags
This is great for things like cucumbers or beets. I’m not sure if you can pickle tomatoes or peppers. Pickling looks to be a bit more difficult to master than other methods – the process itself is easy, but apparently takes â€˜just the right touch’ to be successful.
- Cost: Moderate
- Needs: Canning salt, pressure/water bath canner, vinegar, jars, lids, rings, spices, brine
Most people think of fruits when you mention preserves, but vegetables are catching on as well. I recently had a great jalapeno jelly that greatly complimented my bagel with cheese. You can do freezer jam as well, which is very common. It’s quicker, cheaper, yummier, and doesnâ€™t have as many preservatives.
- Cost: Moderate (cheap after you have a canner)
- Needs: Water bath canner or pressure canner, pectin, jars, lids, rings, freezer containers (if you decide to do freezer jam)
There are two canning methods: pressure canning and water bath canning. I still have memories of the kitchen in my childhood home being covered with jars full of tomatoes and peaches that we enjoyed all winter long. We’ve grew seven tomato plants as well as lot of carrots, peas. All are suitable for canning.
If you are persistent you can pick up canning jars at Salvation Army, Savers, or Goodwill-type places.
- Cost: Moderate (need lots of cans, lids and rings and a canner)
- Needs: Cans, lids, rings, pressure or water bath canner
A food dehydrator is a necessity here, and since we don’t have one, we didn’t dry any food this year.
- Cost: High
- Needs: Food dehydrator, storage bags, or containers
If you’re a fan of V8, you can use a juicer or a blender to create your own tasty beverages. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and radishes can be combined to make a tasty treat. Adding a bit of lemon juice can help equalize the tastes. We’re big fans of tomatoes, so I’m sure some of this juice will find its way into our fridge. This can be frozen, as well.
- Cost: Moderate
- Needs: cans, lids, rings, pressure or water bath canner
Some foods (like potatoes and radishes) can be easily stored in a cool, dry area.
- Cost: Free (unless you buy boxes or bags)
- Needs: Boxes or bags
The bottom line
You don’t have to have a green thumb to cash in on the benefits of canning, preserving and storing food. If you’re unable to maintain a garden, another option is to stockpile produce from local growers. Stop by local orchards and farms, farmer’s markets, and roadside stands and inquire about bulk deals. Take your spoils home, preserve the in whichever method you prefer, and enjoy nutritious produce all winter long!
For a very full rundown on the exact specifics of each of these preservation methods, check out PickYourOwn.org
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