Preserving the Fruits of Your Garden
Got a bumper crop of tomatoes this summer? Are your neighbors hiding
when they see you heading their way with a paper sack of zucchini and
summer squash? Fresh garden vegetables, herbs and fruit are among the
best perks of gardening but theres no reason to stop
eating the fruits of your labor just because the summer is over.
The fine art of preserving fresh produce from your garden is easy to
learn. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be canned, dried, pickled,
frozen or made into relish, jams, jellies and preserves. If
youre not sure of the best way to preserve your bounty for
winter eating, this guide to preserving can help set you straight.
One of the easiest methods of preserving your garden goods, if you
have the freezer space. Its best for small vegetables and
berries or sliced fruits, but should be avoided for leafy vegetables.
Corn: Cut kernels off cobs and spread flat on cookie sheets.
Freeze, then store in zippered plastic bags.
Peas: Shell, spread on cookie sheets in freezer. Store in zipped
Berries: Small berries like blueberries and raspberries can be frozen
whole. Strawberries can be frozen whole or sliced. (For a special
summer treat freeze whole berries on cookie sheets, then eat
straight from the freezer!)
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Drying is best for herbs and legumes. To dry herbs, either spread
leaves flat on drying screens, or tie them loosely in bunches and
hang upside down in a dry, warm place with good air circulation.
Dried beans are great soup starters in the winter. Just spread
unshelled beans on drying screens out in the sun till the pods are
fully dry. Shell and store beans in paper or plastic bags. If
youre brave, you can try sun-drying tomatoes.
A more common way of drying fruits and vegetables is with a
dehydrator, which can be purchased from a kitchen store. Follow the
directions with the dehydrator for best results.
There are many different methods of canning, but most depend on heat
and sterility. Nearly any kind of vegetable or fruit from your garden
can be canned. Youll need a pot large enough to hold jars of
produce, sterile jars and rings. If you do decide to try canning
produce, be sure to follow all directions carefully so that you
dont introduce bacteria into the food youre trying to preserve.
Jams, Jellies, Preserves and Butters
Fruits (and some vegetables) have a natural substance called pectin.
It combines with sugar and heat to thicken the fruit syrup when
its cooked. Generally, the fruit is cooked with sugar and
water, with or without spices or other flavorings added, then ladled
or poured into jars while still hot for sterilization purposes. You
can find recipes for making jams from all sorts of fruits and
vegetables in a good cookbook or online. In general, preserves are
made with whole fruit, jams crushed, and jellies are strained of all
Pickles and relishes use salt, vinegar and/or spices to preserve
vegetables and fruits in a brine of some sort. Were most
familiar with cucumber pickles, but corn, peppers, melon, onions and
many other kinds of fruits or vegetables can be pickled as well!