Ah, September. When minds turn from summertime to harvest time. Whether you tend a massive garden plot or simply grow a few basics in the backyard, now is the time to start thinking about what you’re going to do with all the fresh fruits and veggies you’re reaping. (And if you’re an apartment-dweller or don’t have a garden of your own, these pointers apply just as well to the produce you purchase at the local farmer’s market or pick at the berry farm).
Consider these common methods for preserving fruits, veggies—and flowers too.
This technique has been around for centuries and is still a great way to preserve fruits and veggies. Mason jars with two-piece lids work best. Clean the jars and lids in hot, soapy water and thoroughly sterilize them by boiling them for 10 to 15 minutes before beginning the process. And don’t forget to wash all produce you plan to can.
There are two methods for canning: the hot pack method (which involves heating the food first and the raw pack method (where you put the raw food right in the jar). Learn about both canning methods.
When you finish canning, test the lids to make certain they are properly sealed. If a jar is not sealed, you can refrigerate it and use the unspoiled food within a couple of days, reprocess it, or freeze it. Label your jars clearly so you know the contents, date, and lot number (if you canned more than one canner full in one day)—that way, if one jar spoils, you know which ones to toss out. Store your canned foods in a cool, dark, and dry place for no longer than one year. And by all means, share with friends!
When I was little, I used to love the dried apples my babysitter made. If apples aren’t your thing, you can also dry other ripe fruits such as pears, bananas, strawberries, and kiwi. Veggies (try onions, corn, tomatoes, and green beans) and herbs (sage, parsley, chives, dill, and tarragon) work too—just avoid produce such as celery, broccoli, or citrus fruits that have a high water content.
Drying produce works best with an electric food dehydrator set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Before you dry, be sure to pretreat your fruits and veggies. Bone up on the basics of drying produce.
Want to know more about these food preservation techniques? Check out Farm Gal’s comprehensive info on canning, freezing, and dehydrating fruits and veggies (plus you can learn how to make fruit leather and other tasty treats).
Saving fruits and vegetables ensures they don’t go to waste—and provides tasty treats through the winter. But I’m also a big fan of fresh, fresh, fresh. I am by no means a food know-it-all, but I will say that nothing beats fresh veggies on the grill, hearty veggie-loaded soups and stews, and homemade fruits pies and tarts. So get cooking!
When it’s time for fresh peaches at the farmer’s market, I always make this quick and easy Rustic Peach Tart (it’s great with apples after a day of apple picking too!). Here are a few more fun fresh food recipes.
Odds are your garden’s bounty includes more than fruits and vegetables. Why not save those beautiful blooming flowers? You can preserve flowers by air drying, microwave drying, pressing, or using desiccants. North Dakota State University, Clemson University, and the University of Missouri all have good info on preserving flowers.
The Home Know-It-All