Since properly stored vegetables will hold their flavor and
nutritional value longer than those left in a plastic bag or set on
the sunny kitchen counter, consider preserving some for the long
winter ahead using one of several methods.
Storage orchard racks and slatted crates placed in a cool dark
location have long been used to store squash, onions and potatoes.
The stackable nature or drawers provide ample storage space, so
fruits and vegetables do not touch. Keeping stored fruit separated
prevents rot from spreading from one fruit to the next. Plus, the
slatted sides allow airflow to extend storage longevity.
Those in colder climates can store their carrots and parsnips right
in the garden. Once the soil gets a bit crunchy, cover them with
straw or evergreen boughs for easier digging in winter. Then dig as
needed or harvest during the first winter thaw. If this isn’t
possible or not your style, try out a root vegetable storage bin.
The root crops are layered in sand or sawdust and placed in a cool
dark location. Just remove and use as needed. No snow shoveling
Drying is one of the oldest food preservation techniques. Most of us
have grabbed a few bundles of herbs to hang and dry. Expand your
drying endeavors to include fruits and vegetables. The goal is to
quickly remove moisture without cooking the food. You can make your
own dehydrator or purchase one. Research has shown that blanching
vegetables and fruit before drying helps destroy harmful bacteria.
Blanching involves a steam or boiling water bath followed by a cold
water bath. Timing varies with the fruit or vegetable you are
Another ancient food preservation technique, fermentation, is
experiencing a comeback. Cultures around the world have fermented
fruits and vegetables for thousands of years. Unique flavors,
storage options and health benefits have many gardeners revisiting
this tradition. Fermenting cucumbers into pickles, cabbage into
sauerkraut, and berries into preserves are just a few options. The
ingredients can be as simple as water, salt, and spices. All you
need is a vessel, vegetables and fermenting culture. You can
jump-start your efforts with a fermentation crock kit (gardeners.com)
which includes the crock, cover and weights to make sure your
veggies stay safely submerged in water.
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Or quickly lock in the flavor and nutrition of your fruits and
vegetables with freezing. You’ll need airtight containers or bags
that are durable, don’t leak and won’t become brittle in cold
temperatures. Some produce does not freeze well and others may need
to be blanched before they are packed in the freezer bag or
container. But frozen items can easily be retrieved from the freezer
and included in your winter meals.
Canning is a bit more involved, but can be lots of fun. This process
preserves the food and keeps it safe by preventing the growth of
undesirable bacteria, yeast and mold. The sealed jars keep the
flavor in and bad microorganisms out. So gather your produce, jars,
pressure cooker, canner and friends to create tomato sauce, salsa,
jams and jellies to enjoy or give as gifts.
Whatever method you choose, do a bit of research before you start.
You’ll have greater success and a lot more fun. The National Center
for Home Food Preservation website, http://nchfp.uga.edu, provides
all the basic information for storage and food preservation.
[By MELINDA MYERS]
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author
& columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture
experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t
Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She
hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the
nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is
also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms
magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening
videos and tips.