There are four basic ways to save extra vegetables from your garden for later use:
Many fruits and vegetables can be preserved by canning them. Pears, apples, tomatoes, pickled cucumbers, and beans are among the most popular garden produce that can be preserved this way. For home gardeners, canning involves the use of special canning jars, not cans. Tomatoes and other high acid fruits can be canned in a hot water bath. Other fruits and vegetables can be canned with a pressure canner. Properly canned fruits and vegetables are easy to store and will last up to a year. They make great gifts for holidays or for hostess gifts. What a great way to share your surplus harvest.
Freezing fruits, vegetables, and some herbs is even easier than canning; and, many gardeners are more comfortable with freezing than canning because freezing is almost foolproof and there’s no danger of spoilage or contacting botulism. Green beans and other vegetables should be blanched before freezing them. Simply wash the beans, cut them into 1″ to 2″ pieces if you prefer, boil them for 2 minutes, and then immediately cool them in an ice water bath. Dry the beans with paper towels and put them in freezer bags or vacuum seal them with a home vacuum sealer like Seal-A-Meal.
Here’s a handy tip from one of our Mantis Tiller owners: freeze tomato sauce or applesauce in shallow square freezer containers, then remove the frozen food from the containers and seal it in a plastic freezer bag. The plastic bags are easier to mark noting the date and contents; they’re also easier to store in the freezer and can be quickly thawed in a hot water bath.
Some herbs, like basil, can be frozen, as well. Pick and clean the herbs, place them on cookie sheets, and immediately freeze them. Store the herbs in labeled plastic bags in the freezer.
Some fruits and many herbs can be dried for long term storage and later use. Cut apples or other fruits into small slices and “air dry” them on cooking sheets or in a home drying unit. Dried fruits and herbs can be stored in jars or plastic bags.
Some fruits and vegetables, like pears and winter squash, can simply be stored in a dark, cool, dry space for weeks or months after harvest. Dry storage works better when the fruits have no blemishes and when they can be stored on racks in such a way that they don’t touch each other. Green tomatoes can be individually wrapped in newspaper and stored on racks in a cool basement to ripen. Dry storage can be a little tricky, and it’s important to frequently check the condition of your stored food.
The best way to preserve some flowers is to dry them. Hydrangea blooms can be dried by hanging them from a clothes line or deck railing until the blooms are totally dry. Most dried flowers will fade, of course, but many will maintain their interesting shape. Art supply stores are good sources for special spray paint that can be used to spray dried flowers for a more colorful display. Of course, you’ll want to spray them outside to avoid breathing any fumes or making a mess with any overspray.
No doubt the simplest way to “preserve” your pretty flowers is to photograph them. Then download them to a folder on your PC for easy reference. Maybe make your own garden calendar and enjoy your garden all year long!