Gardening Tips and Highlights

Preserving the harvest

by Christine Yesko

 

Though you must keep the garden picked once your vegetables begin to ripen, you don’t need to eat everything you pick immediately. Garden produce harvested at its peak can be preserved for your eating pleasure when summer is just a pleasant memory.

Probably the oldest means of preserving food is by drying it, and this is still a popular and effective method. Freezing and canning are also popular, and other methods, such as fermenting cabbage to make sauerkraut or preserving fruit in brandy, are still used for special effects. It is important to harvest the best, most unblemished produce and process it as quickly as possible. Whatever method of preservation you choose, clean the vegetables meticulously, cool them immediately, and then proceed with the preservation method you select.

Canning: With the exception of some specialty foods, such as pickles and jams, home canning is not recommended for most vegetables because of the potential for contamination in under-processed foods. Given the ease and speed that vegetables can be frozen, it is not surprising that most contemporary gardeners and cooks opt for freezing. The food you freeze will maintain the same nutritive values it had when fresh.

Foods with high water content like carrots, celery, and bell peppers lose their crispness after thawing but are still suitable for cooking. To prepare vegetables, wash, trim, and cut them up as you would for cooking, and then blanch them. Blanching destroys the enzymes that cause deterioration and helps maintain color, flavor, and vitamins. Most frozen vegetables keep well for nine to 12 months.

Drying vegetables: Vegetables can be preserved by drying or dehydrating. Whether drying in the sun, oven, or a dehydrator, vegetables can be stored as they are or in jars covered with olive oil. Another popular use of dried vegetables and herbs is to make vegetable powders. Dehydrated onion, garlic, carrots, celery, spinach, and red and green bell peppers make wonderful powders for use in stews, fresh pasta sauces, gravies, or soups. The powders can be stored individually, or mixed together to make a vegetable medley. Properly packaged and stored, dried vegetables keep well for long periods of time and add depth of flavor that is otherwise difficult to achieve.

 

This information obtained from Planter Place.