by Rebecca Hansen
Now that so many of us have all tried our hands at the new Victory Gardens and are getting back to our roots in our community’s Grow Local movements and with the flow of garden produce increasing each minute, and we have donated to the local Community Food Share programs, we are beginning to be mildly panicked at the thought of all of that work going to waste solely because we can’t use it fast enough. With our neighbors slamming their doors when they see us heading their way with an arm load of our best organically grown zucchinis we find ourselves wishing the bounty could be spread out over the year and last well beyond the late summer flush. More and more people are turning to home food preservation as a way to keep the bounty of their hard-earned, organic, heirloom, non-genetically modified gardens coming.
Now is the time to start your research, before the tidal wave of tomatoes sweeps you away. The number of food preservation methods is exciting and a bit daunting. Drying foods is one of the oldest methods of preserving foods. Also, canning, freezing, pickling, curing and smoking, and fermenting are ways to keep your pantry full during the winter. What could be more fulfilling than pulling out a sparkling jar of homemade salsa when the snowflakes are flying to bring back warm memories of those beautiful heirloom tomatoes growing on the vine? CSU Extension has a couple of great publications on how to dry vegetables and fruits with all that you need to know about nutritional values, methods and safety precautions.
Also in the extension’s Nutrition, Health and Food Safety publications, are fact sheets on smoking and curing meats and making pickles and sauerkraut and preserving without sugar or salt for special diets. Check out the one on safe practices for community gardens for tips on ensuring safe food for all gardeners.
With all of our efforts to ensure that we each have gotten the most nutritious value from our fresh produce it would be prudent to search for the newest scientific research into home preservation methods. We want to eat healthy fruits and vegetables even when they are not in season. The USDA encourages us to use safe canning methods. Scientific developments have changed recommendations over time. Always use up-to-date methods and do not just rely on practices of past generations. A great place to start is by exploring the National Center for Home Food Preservation web site from the University of Georgia.
Publications and resources are available at the center’s website with useful tips for proper preservation techniques. Also, not to be missed is an awesome, free, on-line self study course called;
- Preserving Food at Home: A Self-Study
- Principles of Home Canning If you are new to canning you should definitely have this publication at hand.
- See the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2009 revision as downloadable pdf files or ordering information.
Preserving homegrown food can be an economical and fulfilling way to enjoy quality, nutritional food from your garden all year long. So when your heirloom tomatoes, squash, onions, peppers, beans, garlic, beets, and turnips cover every surface in your home and garage and the refrigerator is brimming with more fragile produce, you will be fortified with the knowledge necessary to safely preserve the bounty for the time when the snowflakes will inevitably fly.