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    Canning and Preserving Your Harvest

    Once you start vegetable and fruit gardening, you can quickly have an overabundance of produce. While it's great to share those extra tomatoes, peaches, beans and cucumbers with friends and family, you may want to preserve and store some for your family to enjoy year-round.


    The Four Main Ways to Preserve Your Harvest



    Fresh Storage


    While most vegetables and fruits are highly perishable, some can be stored for months under the right conditions. Apples, potatoes, winter squash, garlic, onions, carrots and cabbage are some of the fruits and vegetables that you can store in a basement or root cellar. You first need to know the storage requirements of each vegetable. For example, root crops such as beets and carrots like cool (55 degrees) and moist (90 percent humidity) conditions. Store these in perforated plastic bags in the basement. Pumpkins and winter squash like cool and dry (60 percent humidity) conditions. Many basements fit these requirements. Onions and garlic, however, like cold (35 degrees) and dry (60 percent humidity) conditions. Some basements and garages fit this bill. Potatoes like cold and moist conditions, and can be stored in perforated bags in the refrigerator.


    Freezing your produce is perhaps the easiest way to store it. Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, can simply be cut up and frozen in chunks in freezer bags. They can be cooked in soups, stews and sauces in winter. Most vegetables, though, need to be blanched before freezing. To blanch vegetables, dip them in boiling water for a few minutes and then let them cool. This process preserves their color and texture. Corn, beans, peas and many other vegetables should be blanched before frozen. Fruits (and many herbs) can also be frozen.


    Canning fruits and vegetables is a more involved process that requires more equipment and time than freezing. But if you like homemade pickles, dilly beans, and tomatoes for making sauce, canning is the way to go. To can correctly and safely, educate yourself on the proper methods and procedures.


    Drying vegetables and fruits is an age-old way to preserve the harvest. If you live in a hot, dry climate like the Southwest, then you can easily dry tomatoes, peppers, apricots and other fruits and vegetables (and even herbs) outdoors on drying racks. However, for most home gardeners, the best place to dry produce is in the oven or a dehydrator. Dehydrators are specially constructed to maintain the right temperature and air movement for drying. Without the proper temperature and air movement, your fruits and vegetables may not dry properly and could spoil. If you don't want to invest in a dehydrator, you can use an oven. Set the oven temperature on low and leave the oven door ajar to allow for air movement. Be patient; it may take all day to properly dry some vegetables and fruits.

    Storing, canning, freezing and drying your fruits and vegetables is a great way to savor the wonderful tastes of summer year-round.