Now that you're growing all kinds of amazing produce, you may have a problem on your hands: an excess of deliciousness. It's kind of astounding to watch how much even a small garden can produce, and if you aren't careful, you can be overloaded, especially in the summer, when a veritable bounty of delicious summer squash, tomatoes, herbs, and more will be exploding from the seams of your garden fence.
You could give away some to the neighbors or donate to a charitable cause, two great things to do with extra food, but there's another option you should be considering: food storage. You're growing it, so why not benefit from it? Especially since now that you're accustomed to the taste of homegrown, you might be disappointed by what you get in the store during the offseason.
When it comes to food storage, what do we recommend?
"When it comes to harvest season, eat what you can, and what you can't, can," as they say. Canning is a longstanding traditional method for putting food by, and it can be used to preserve a huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. You have an option between a variety of canning techniques and preparations, including things like preserved lemons and a huge array of pickles.
The bottom line with canning is that it's surprisingly inexpensive and easy to do, and once foods are canned, you'll just need to stick them in a cool dry place for later use. Want more details on canning food and canning safety? The USDA canning guide is detailed and very helpful!
Another ancient food preservation practice, fermentation uses friendly bacteria to create a preservation medium for food. You eat fermented food all the time if you enjoy pickles, beer, sauerkraut, cheese, or yoghurt, and you can also make your own. The great thing about home fermentation is that you control all the ingredients, and you get to customize the flavor profile!
Freezing food is another fantastic option for food storage, although it gets a bad rep in some corners because many people think of freezer-burned, dried-out, gross veggies. If you keep your freezer at a stable temperature and package your food well, though, your frozen vegetables will taste just as great when you take them out as when you put them in.
Freezing can work very well for preserving herbs, greens like kale and spinach, and fruit.
Dried fruit and herbs are a staple in many winter kitchens, bringing the scent of summer into the grim, cold months of the year. Thanks to the fact that dried foods compress down well, they're also easy to store. Like canned foods, dried foods should be stored in a cool dry place; exposure to heat, sunlight, or moisture can damage them.
Cold pantries are the bee's knees, and I am on a one-person quest to make them hip again. They keep food cool and contained without using any energy, and they can be made in any size. In addition to being a great place to store canned and dried foods, you can also use them for storing winter squash, potatoes, root vegetables, and apples. To make your cold pantry even easier to use, consider adding some tip-out drawers for loose veggies.
The root cellar is for people who want to get serious about produce storage. Much larger than a cold pantry, it offers even more cool storage. Basements can be easily converted to root cellars with the help of a Minneapolis remodeling firm, or you can use a corner of the basement for this purpose; set up shelves and drawers for storing your produce, along with a freezer for all those frozen goods you want to preserve.
Make sure to clearly date all your containers and to use food in the order it's put down (put into storage) to keep things as fresh as possible. As always, if something looks, smells, or tastes odd, err on the side of caution: toss it into the compost, because it may have spoiled.
Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.