Storing Your Extra Crops

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We frequently talk about the benefits of eating local, that is to say seasonal, hopefully organic foods grown in close proximity to where you live. And when it comes to sourcing those kinds of superior fruits, vegetables and herbs, what could be more “local” than your own backyard or patio?

If you have even a small plot of sunny ground, or a few pots or planters and a patio, balcony or window sill, you can grow a bounty of fresh, organic foods. Add a trellis or other upright support, and you will find it amazing how many things you’ll be able to grow in a small space.

Two favorites, both easy to grow and, with the right conditions, prolific, are tomatoes and strawberries. Even when you buy them “local” from your farmers’ market, nothing can compare with home-grown fruits picked and consumed immediately.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself with a bumper crop of either of these two, you’ll want to take advantage by storing your surplus for those months when you’ll be without the fresh versions. With the resurgence of home gardening, many people are rediscovering the generations-old practice of canning. In the dead of winter, when you’re making soups, stews or spaghetti sauce, you’ll be able to pop open a jar of delicious home-grown tomato sauce. And, in addition to being a superior storage alternative to cans, the glass jars are also reusable, making them a “greener” choice, as well!

As for the strawberries, nothing could be simpler or more convenient than freezing. Simply rinse and dry the berries, remove the stems, and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer. After berries are solidly frozen (2 hours or so depending on size) place them in a zip lock bag and store until that mid-winter day when you’re craving a fresh strawberry “milkshake”. Then, just take out a handful of frozen berries about 5 minutes before using in order to thaw them ever so slightly. (If you have a high-powered blender you can use them straight from the freezer.) Toss the berries into the blender with some almond milk and a touch of stevia and enjoy immediately.

As for canning the tomatoes, there are many websites with thorough instructions. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of following the safety guidelines for canning, particularly when using tomatoes that are lower in acid. Here’s a link to the United States Department of Agriculture guidelines.

 

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