If you’re a gardener, then preserving your garden harvest will be of utmost importance to you. Times gone by, our ancestors preserved their fruits and vegetables in root cellars. It was a hole that was dug deep into the ground and lined with field stones. Dark and damp, it was a great place to store and retrieve the sustenance needed to get through a bitterly cold winter.
Today, of course, we have freezers, refrigerators and other nifty and sophisticated methods for preserving fruits and veggies that did not exist generations ago. So, what do we do with our plentiful harvest? Here are a few suggestions with some of my favorite fruits and vegetables.
Tomatoes are best eaten fresh, so eat what you can. You can preserve the rest as tomato paste, pasta sauce or just skin them, bag them and freeze them for future use. You can also make your own version of tomato or V8 juice. There are also some really great recipes for tomato soup that you can cook, cool, and freeze.
Squash should only be stored if fully mature, and harvested before the first frost. Leave 3″ of the stem attached and keep the squash in a warm, dry and ventilated area for two weeks. Once cured, you can move them to a cool storage area, around 50 – 55 degrees. You can also peel and cut the squash into cube size pieces and freeze them.
Potatoes should be stored in an unheated basement or insulated garage to protect against freezing. The best location is a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area. Store in a corrugated box, or a perforated plastic bag to maintain humidity levels while allowing air flow. You can also peel, wash, blanch and freeze your potatoes. Another option is to dehydrate them and store in ziplocks or canning jars.
Carrots are easy to store during the winter. In the old days, they would be left in the ground, covered with hay, and dug up as needed. Today, they can be kept in a root cellar, canned, dehydrated, freezed, pickled, and fermented.
Peppers should be harvested before the first frost. You have several options for preserving them. You can roast and then freeze them, can them, or boil them for five minutes, cool for one minute and them wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in your freezer.
Apples should be harvested before the first frost and carefully so you don’t bruise them, which accelerates rotting. Store apples in the dark on shallow trays lined with shredded newspaper. The temperature should be cool but not frosty. An unheated basement or insulated garage can be ideal storage locations. Apples can also be made into apple sauce, butter, jelly, jam, chutney, relish, pie filling, mincemeat, dehydrated, and also apple cider. They’re such a versatile fruit.