How to Get the Most Out of Your Home Garden Produce
by Diane Quinn
Planting a home vegetable garden offers many rewards. Your meals taste better when you incorporate delicious and nutritious home garden vegetables when they’re at their peak for flavor and freshness. One of the challenges for most gardeners is learning how to get the most out of your garden produce without wasting any homegrown goodies or using them at non-peak ripeness and flavor.
Preserving garden vegetables
Every gardener wants to extend the life of their garden beyond the growing season. Although there’s nothing quite like picking the fresh vegetables and fruits you plan to eat that day, by learning how to perform the following preservation techniques, you won’t waste any of your harvest.
Freezing. Vegetables and fruits that contain a lot of water, such as lettuce, tomatoes and watermelon, can’t be frozen using home methods. Depending upon the produce, there are different blanching/freezing techniques and packaging needed for freezer storage. You can freeze home garden vegetables successfully using moisture-proof packaging for longer freezing times or moisture-resistant containers for the short term.
Canning. This technique for preserving garden vegetables has been handed down in farming families for generations, but you don’t have to have a huge harvest to do your own canning. Effort and equipment is needed, and if you follow the instructions carefully, the results are almost foolproof. While tomatoes can’t be frozen, your over-abundant tomato crop can be canned. Yummy fruit jellies and jams made with a canner make thoughtful and always appreciated gifts.
Dehydration. Drying removes all the moisture from vegetables and fruits to prevent any bacteria, mold or yeast from growing that will spoil the food. This process also slows down enzyme action that occurs naturally as produce ripens. You can use a food dehydrator, your oven or the sun to dry food. The trick is to use the right combination of warm temperature, low humidity and air current.
Pickling. Everyone knows that cucumbers make tasty sweet or sour pickles, but did you know that other home garden vegetables and fruits can also be pickled or made into relishes? Cauliflower, peppers, sweet apples and pears can all be pickled and made into yummy condiments.
Home gardening tips for preserving produce
If you have family members or friends who know the techniques of produce preservation, tap into their experience. Follow a tested recipe from a trusted source. Remember, spoilage can happen if you take shortcuts or don’t follow directions. Use only produce from your home vegetable garden that’s ripe, contains no damage and is pest- and disease-free. When canning, always use clean jars with new or reusable seal lids.
Other important home vegetable gardening tips can be found on The National Center for Food Preservation website.