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Preserving the Harvest

By: Anni Jack, Adult Education Coordinator | 10/14/2021

Dirty nails, sweaty brows, frown lines (how many squash bugs can there be!?)… We made it, people! We have earned this garden harvest!  Now the question is, what do we do with our baskets of apples, aprons full of jalapenos, and bowls of tomatoes? There are many fabulous ways to preserve our bounty, but in case you are wondering, here is why:

🌱 It helps us extend our garden bounty into the more meager winter months

🌱 We can keep family traditions and recipes alive

🌱  Preserves food culture by passing heirloom seeds to generations

🌱 Seeds can be free and saving them limits produce you have to buy

🌱  Protects us from hard times such as supply interruptions, storms, and catastrophe

🌱 Builds community by connecting us with others on a level familiar to all people and cultures

🌱  Grows better gardeners as we seek to maintain healthy plants thru the growing season for harvest time

🌱  Magical DNA cocktails can occur in your garden thru cross pollinations and seed collecting can preserve those thriving plants for future use

How do we plan a garden in those dreary winter days that is perfect for preserving at harvest time?  Well, we ask ourselves three questions when looking at plants and seeds for our edible garden beds and boxes:

1. Are they easily preserved?

2.Are they cheaper and easily available just to purchase?

3. Do we like them? Yeah, you could grow brussel sprouts but if you don’t like them, you may not want to plant a garden box of them!

Preservation Methods

Root Cellar
A cool, dark area is a great storage place for produce like potatoes, onions, pumpkins, garlic, squashes, and apples.  Many of these garden varieties can last 4-6 months or longer in the right conditions.

Almost all veggies can be frozen except those with a high water content like potatoes, salad greens, and watermelon.  Most will need blanched first for 1-3 min. to stop the enzymes that would ruin the color, flavor, and nutrient quantity.  Many fruit would do best in a sugar syrup.

Freezer jam is a great way to preserve berries!
Pesto can be made with more than basic basil and is easily frozen in ice cube trays

The work that goes into canning can be daunting but those colorful jars glistening on the shelf can pass on family recipes & traditions, be shared with friends, and be savored on special days.  You can pickle, make sauces & salsas, and can fruit in syrup.  It is important to can properly and leave low-acid veggies to a pressure canner.  The University of Idaho is a great canning resource: https://www.extension.uidaho.edu/publishing/pdf/PNW/PNW652.pdf

Hang herbs upside down in a closet or pantry for a few weeks then make your own dry seasonings or teas!

Vine dry beans after pods wither on vine and seeds rattle. Pick, shell, dry, freeze for 2 days to kill pests, and store.

Dehydrating removes water via oven, sun, or electric dehydrator to create dry, preserved produce. You will most likely need to treat the veggies or fruit by blanching or use a solution to stop browning.  Some great dehydrator items are zucchini, cauliflower, peas, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, fruit, and don’t forget onions and garlic so that you could create your own seasoning powder.

Flavored vinegars are steeped with herbs, spices, and/or fruit for 3-4 weeks then can be refrigerated or canned.

Alcohol infusions meld fruit with high proof alcohol like brandy or vodka. They are chilled for weeks and can be a beautiful gift or dessert topping.

Filled with tangy probiotics, fermented veggies are preserved in a salt mixture to build lactic acid for 3-6 weeks.  Sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso are all fermented foods with a flavor punch.


Bonus Recipe!