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Preserving Your Harvest

food scienceIf you garden – either at home or maybe you’re growing a garden with students at school – you know that a major consideration is harvest. What are you going to do with the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor?

Of course you plan to eat it, but what do you do when you reap more than you can eat? There are a number of options that you can pursue, one option is to share your bounty with family and friends. I appreciate it when my school colleagues leave baskets of fresh home grown tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini in our staff office with a big “Help Yourself!” sign.  Another option is to preserve the food for long term storage through drying, freezing or canning so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor throughout the year.

There are many benefits to preserving your fruit and vegetables:

  • It preserves the nutrients and the quality of your produce.
  • It allows you to enjoy the food throughout the year with the emotional satisfaction that this is food grown by you and with fond thoughts of the summer (especially for those of us in wintry climates!).
  • It allows you to personalize your ingredients in developing specialty products, such as in homemade sauces, salsas, and jams. (Currently one of the major food trends!) These products can be shared as gifts for others. One benefit is that you can mass produce these items.
  • It allows you to know exactly how the food was grown, prepared and canned.
  • It will save you money on your food budget.
  • You can participate in a canning event with family and friends, making it a community building activity.

There are some great websites to help you learn how to can. One of my favorite videos is found on the Growing a Greener World website that has a section on “Preserving the Harvest” with Theresa Loe. I recommend checking out “Water Bath Basics 101,” “Canning Tomatoes,” “Apple Pie Filling” and the “Dangers of BPA in Canning Lids.” The video on “Salsa” is very similar to the others and would be repetitive. Some of the extension sites I viewed had really good information, but have mediocre to poorly developed videos which I believe students would lose interest quickly.

Another fantastic site is from the Ball, the maker of Mason jars. I will speak more about that site in my next blog. For those of you who have put up preserves with your students, what recommendations do you have for your colleagues who will be attempting this venture?

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