Harvesting the fruits of your labor from your own garden is a very rewarding experience but it is also nice to be able eat your favorite vegetables even when they are out of season. If you want to make sure that you are always stocked with nutritious meal options every single day, preserving vegetables are the best way to go.
But, with so many options, how do you know which are the best vegetables to preserve? Not all of them are great for canning and preserving so before you go and prepare your mini garden, check out our helpful list below to see which items you should consider.
There are three ways to preserve potatoes: freezing, dehydrating and canning.
Before freezing potatoes, make sure to thoroughly scrape the skin, blanch it for 3 to 5 minutes then cool it down in ice water for 5 to 10 minutes. Pack up the potatoes in a Ziploc and remove as much air as you can then seal and freeze it.
Another way to do it is to dehydrate the potatoes. Scrub and wash then cool it down or refrigerate it overnight. Slice it without removing the skin so the nutrients still remain then place them in dehydrator trays, making sure that they do not overlap. You can then dehydrate them at 125 degrees Fahrenheit then store in Ziploc bags.
It is also possible to home-can potatoes so you can store them for later use. Simply wash and peel the potatoes and soak them in ascorbic acid solution to prevent it from darkening. Boil them for 2 minutes and place it in a jar. Add in a teaspoon of salt per quart of jar; this helps maintain the taste and texture. Lastly, cover the potatoes in boiling water but do not use the ones where you cooked the potatoes in as they contain a lot of starch.
Tomatoes are perhaps among the most popular and best vegetables to preserve. You have the option to can, freeze them whole or skinned, turn them into a paste or ketchup or dry them up.
Freezing tomatoes is quite easy and it is the best alternative for when you don’t have a canner. Basically, what you have to do is skin the tomatoes before putting them inside the freezer. Simply drop them in a pan of boiling water and the skin should start splitting and sliding off. Remove the skin and seeds, if you want, then cool them off thoroughly. Squeeze as much air as you possibly can when placing inside freezer bags.
A major reason why you should preserve vegetables is that they are assured of the quality that comes with each food that is being placed on the table. You can turn your tomatoes into a paste or ketchup which you can eventually use for future recipes. To make a paste, just cook them over medium heat and add a teaspoon of salt every five tomatoes or so; do that until you get a pasty consistency.
As for dried tomatoes, you can dry them up for 12 hours inside an oven or around 8 hours in a dehydrator. If you want to go old school, lay the tomatoes under direct sunlight but don’t let them touch the ground – this will take around three days to dry up.
If you live in a place with cooler climates, you are in luck. Carrots do not mind staying in chilly temperatures so you can just leave them in the ground and they’re good. Cover each row with mulch (leaves and straws will do) then add in a layer of plastic or tarp. Add about an inch of mulch on top of the plastic to help insulate them during frozen temperatures.
There is also a root cellar style of preserving them that you can use. It basically involves trimming the leaves off – but make sure that you do not wash the carrots. Then, put them inside boxes or containers and surround with damp straw, sand or sawdust. Make sure that they stay somewhere above freezing temperature with lots of humidity. Going for this route will allow your vegetables to last around 4 to 6 months. Cool, huh?
Canning, freezing and drying your carrots also work great as an alternative way to preserve them. Carrots are low acid food so you will have to use a pressure canner to can them. A quicker way to preserve carrots would be freezing – go peel and thoroughly wash them then slice or dice and blanch for three minutes. Place them inside freezer containers after it has been cooled down properly.
Just like other vegetables, pumpkins and squash can be preserved for later use either through drying, freezing or canning.
If you want to make pumpkin purees, butters or preserves, the only route to go is to freeze them. A few things that you need to keep in mind: make sure to select full-colored pumpkins that have fine texture. After washing your pumpkin and cutting them into small sections, cook them until soft them remove the pulp and mash. Then, cool it off by placing the pan with pumpkin in cold water. Once thoroughly cooled, put inside containers then freeze.
When canning pumpkins or squash, the only way to go would be to use a pressure canner. As for drying, be sure to cut into small strips first, blanch it then place inside a dehydrator to dry.
Mushrooms can become quite dirty (and icky) especially after a rain. So, how do you properly clean mushrooms to get it ready for preservation?
Some people would recommend against putting the mushrooms under the water. Although the debris and bugs will certainly be removed, it could also mean that some of its flavor and nutrients could get washed away in the process. The best way around it would be to wash it with as little water as possible and just cut or scrape away as much soil particles stuck in it.
The most common way to preserve mushrooms would be to dry them off. Slice up the mushrooms and remove stalks and other tough parts to get them ready. Then, you can place it inside the oven or a dehydrator to take the moisture out. When using an oven, set it to 150 degrees and keep the door open the entire time. You might also want to go the traditional way and thread the mushrooms and let it air dry.
Other options for preserving mushrooms would be to freeze, salt, powder, pickle or pack them in oil. The beauty to this is that it requires very little time (and resources) to finish it and you can be assured that you have your mushrooms ready when you need them.
Each one of us has their own opinion about pickles; some like them but some do not. There are also those who opt for sweet pickles while others love it otherwise.
To can cucumbers and make sure they still maintain that crunch, start off by refrigerating cucumbers then washing them once they are already cold. Whether you want them sliced or whole, sprinkle some salt then cover them with a towel and put some ice on top of it. You can let this one sit for about three hours or even overnight.
Another option to preserve your favorite cucumbers would be to ferment them. This involves soaking them in brine solution – and make sure they stay below. Start off with cold cucumbers then store the jar in a cool, dry place for about a week or so.
Freezing and dehydrating cucumbers are also another alternative way to preserve your favorite vegetables for later use. To freeze cucumbers, you can wash, slice and wrap them in baking sheet before placing inside the freezer. You can transfer them inside a freezer bag once they have frozen over. Should you decide to dry your cucumbers, you can place it inside a dehydrator for around 6 to 8 hours or until the moisture has thoroughly been removed.
Get to Preserving!
Pretty easy, huh?
The processes may sound complicated but they are actually pretty simple to follow through. Don’t be afraid to experiment and give each method a try.
We hope our list of the best vegetables to preserve has helped you decide what to plant in your very own backyard garden. True, some things we have presented here are not really that expensive in supermarkets (ketchup, tomato paste, etc) but, hey, each dollar can really add up!
Plus, wouldn’t it be great if you know exactly what food gets in your table and where they come from? Many commercialized products often make use of harmful pesticides and insecticides and you surely do not want them anywhere near your family.
So, go ahead and starting preserving vegetables at home. Have fun and enjoy the fruits (erm, vegetables?) of your labor!
Do you preserve vegetables at home? What are your favorites? Share them below – and share this article if you find it helpful!