Gardening Pt VI: Preserving Your Harvest

Here we are at the end of our gardening series. We DIYed our own raised beds. We talked about when to plant your basics and what to plant them with. We labeled our garden and sprayed it with handmade insecticides. We’ve put lots of love and care into those fruits and veggies and now, the only thing left to do is harvest them. Isn’t it exciting to bite into your first fresh salad, straight from the garden? You can practically taste your hard work. But eventually you’ll run out of salad combinations and ways to eat cucumbers.

Hanging herbs for drying process

So what do you do when you’re sick of tomatoes and still have twenty sitting on your kitchen counter? Yes, you could give them away to friends and family, but how would you like to top a bowl of pasta with some homemade tomato sauce in the dead of winter? Taking the time and effort to correctly preserve your produce will help you eat healthy and cheaply all winter long. So check out these seven basic ways to preserve your harvest.

water bath canning

When you think of preserving your garden produce, the first thing that comes to mind is probably canning. And it’s a good place for the mind to go! Canning is a relatively simple way to make the most of your produce, but you need to be sure to do it correctly. Most people that utilize this method of preservation today use water bath canning.

Hanging herbs for drying process

However, before you go throwing all your veggies into a jar and giving them a hot water bath, you need to know that only fruits and veggies that are highly acidic can be canned with only hot water. Think tomatoes, fruits, pickles and jams. Thankfully, there are books with many creative recipes for your own sauces and such. (via At The Immigrant’s Table)

pressure cooker canning

So what do you do with all your green beans if you can’t can them? The answer lies with the pressure cooker. Low acidic vegetables like beans, squash, corn, potatoes, etc, need to be canned at a much higher temperature so they will be safe to eat months later. A pressure cooker gets much hotter than water bath canning so you can have your tomatoes and green beans lined up side by side in their mason jars, but canned by a different process. (via One Hundred Dollars a Month)

pickling produce

Let’s talk about pickling. It’s basically taking a vegetable and soaking it in vinegar, making it more acidic. Remember what we said above about canning? If you take your low acidic veggies and pickle them first, then they will be safe to can using a water bath! Like magic.

Hanging herbs for drying process

But if you’d rather not give all that effort, there are some quick pickling methods that will still make things last longer in your fridge. (via Cookie and Kate)

jamming produce

Everybody loves a good jam, right? Just imagine spreading homemade strawberry jam on warm biscuits as snow falls outside. Your garden can give you that! If you planted berry bushes or fruit trees, jamming and jellying are great ways to make that fresh produce go long term.

Hanging herbs for drying process

That doesn’t mean you have to use your own fruit though. There are lots of orchards and berry patches where you can take advantage of someone else’s hard work and do the preserving at home yourself. However you do it, it still equals jam on warm biscuits. (via Frankie’s Feast)

freezing produce

Freezers are possibly the best invention since sliced bread. When you don’t have time to can produce or don’t want to mess with the pressure cooker or both, freezing your harvest is a great method of preservation.

Hanging herbs for drying process

Before you go throwing things in the freezer though, make sure that your veggies don’t need to be blanched (boiled in a pot of water for a few minutes). Otherwise, there are lots of tips and tricks for the best ways to freeze your produce so you get the best taste when you finally eat them. (via Design Mom)

storing onions

When you grow your own onions, they need a little work before you store them away. After harvesting, onions need to be laid out in a warm place to dry (or cure) for about two weeks. You’ll know when they’re finished when the tops are dried out.

Hanging herbs for drying process

Then you can cut off the tops and store them in a cool, dry place in a reusable onion bag or punched brown sacks like the ones above or even lengthwise in pantyhose. If you’re feeling confident, leave the tops on and braid your onions before storing them. (via The Yummy Life)

drying herbs

Because so many herbs are such good companion plants, there’s a good chance you’ll have them to harvest too! But we’ll guess that it might be impossible for you to use them all before they go bad. Enter the herb drying process. It’s simple.

Hanging herbs for drying process

Tie your herbs together and hang them upside down in a warm dry space until the leaves are crunchy. You’ll have your kitchen looking rather Italian with all that basil hanging leaves down. Once they’re dry, you can strip the leaves and store them in jars.

Hanging herbs for drying process

You can also freeze your fresh herbs in water or oil and then add them to your dishes by the cube. With all those possibilities, you’ll definitely want to have an herb garden to give you plenty of fresh herbs for all your cooking needs. (via The Garden Glove)