Get the most out of your fruits and veggies this season with these steps to preserve your garden harvest
Several months ago, you put the work in and planted your garden
. Now, you're reaping the fruits of your labor! While fresh fruits and veggies are wonderful, they don't stay that way for long, and it would be a shame for them to go to waste! If you find yourself in a pickle, check out these 8 tasty ways to preserve your garden harvest and enjoy your fruits and veggies for months to come!
This is probably a method you're familiar with and is a tried and true way to make your harvest last. However, if done incorrectly, it can be dangerous; toxins from bacteria can cause botulism if foods aren't properly canned.
Low acid foods, such as green beans, corn, and carrots, will require pressure canning to keep them safe. For detailed information on canning safety to prevent botulism, check out this helpful guide from the CDC
You've probably purchased frozen fruits and veggies from the grocery store, and you can make your own without too much trouble. However, it's not always as simple as bagging them up and tossing them in the freezer.
While most fruits can simply be washed and frozen, vegetables usually need to blanched prior to freezing
. You can do this by boiling water and briefly cooking the vegetables. In addition to cleaning away dirt and bacteria, this process stops their enzymes from ruining the flavor and texture.
Immediately after blanching, quickly cool the vegetables off by dunking them into cool water to stop them from cooking all the way through. Then, they're ready to be bagged up and frozen!
If you have a dehydrator, this is can be a great method to keep your harvest for later snacking. By removing all or most of the moisture from a fruits and vegetables, you prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and yeast.
If you don't have a dehydrator, you can also dry many of the same things in the oven
4. Sun drying
Sun drying is yet another method you can use if you don't have a dedicated dehydrator. Using the power of the sun
, you can preserve certain things like tomatoes, peppers, apples, and peaches for later use.
After washing your selection, cut them into slices and put them on a metal or wood grate. The point is to place them on a surface that allows air to circulate. Some fruits, like apples, might benefit from a brief bath in a lemon juice solution to prevent oxidation, but you can also steam blanch to prevent enzymes from activating.
Lay them out in an area safe from animals, ants
, and other pests. If needed, put a screen or netting around it to prevent them from snacking on your food. Sun drying works best in climates that are not only sunny, but dry and breezy. After three days to a week, they should be ready!
Pickling isn't just for cucumbers! You can pickle pretty much anything, and there are hundreds of recipes
to add unique flavors to the veggies.
While there are a number of ways to pickle something, the idea is that the vegetable is surrounded by an acid that prevents most bacteria from growing. This can be done through natural fermentation where special bacteria produce lactic acid, or by submerging the vegetables in a vinegar solution.
6. Preserve them in alcohol
Another tasty way to preserve your fruits and veggies is by placing them in your favorite alcohol! Add fruit to a jar with a little bit of sugar and fill it with something like rum. These can be enjoyed on their own, or placed on top of baked treats, ice cream, or your favorite dessert.
For a more savory concoction, consider making your own hot sauce. Take an empty bottle, fill it with peppers, garlic cloves, onions, peppercorns, or any other flavors you please. Then, fill it with mezcal or tequila. Let it rest for at least a few months, but the longer the better. Then, drizzle a little bit over your favorite dish for a spicy flavor boost.
7. Preserve them in oil
Fat can act as a preservative by preventing air from interacting with your veggies, which stops bacteria and mold from growing. If you have excess herbs in your harvest, making herb-infused olive oil can be an excellent treat.
But it doesn't stop with herbs - peppers, onions, mushrooms, and garlic can be lightly roasted and placed in jars with olive oil to be enjoyed months later.
8. Make jams, jellies, and marmalades
Does your garden harvest include peaches, strawberries, dewberries, or perhaps even jalapenos? Cooking them into jams, jellies, or marmalades
can be a delicious way to make them last!
While you may have heard jams, jellies, and marmalades used interchangeably, they are different. Jelly is usually made using only the juice of fruits that are more difficult to make into jam. Grapes, for example, may not contain enough pectin, which is what creates that viscous, gel-like texture. That's why jellies usually have pectin added.
Jams are made with actual pieces of fruit, either whole or diced, and sugar. It is then cooked until it is suitably thick. Marmalade simply refers to jellies and jams made with citrus fruits, like oranges or grapefruits.
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Even if you preserve your excess fruits and veggies, you're likely to have scraps! Read our beginners guide to composting
and put those scraps to work!