Harvesting the Garden – Canning & Preserving

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For those of you who followed my Seeds to Garden Series which began in the Spring, it’s now harvest time. And the bounty has been tremendous for a garden plot that is roughly 10′ x 12′, which I consider rather small.

To take you back a bit, planting this year did have its challenges.  String beans needed to be replanted due to excess Spring rains and I also had to plant more cucumbers from seeds in the garden, since some seedlings did not do well after planting them.

But then the warmth came and things took off. I had also started some perennial and annual flower seeds, some of which were slow out the gate, but eventually blossomed into strong plants.

About the end of June, we started to enjoy small cucumbers and lettuce, followed in August by tomatoes, string beans (late) and potatoes. I planted potatoes in bags this year and I’ll be posting how to do that for next year’s planting time.  Our biggest yield was tomatoes, every size and shape possible it seems, including low acid yellow and orange varieties, since I had also planted a variety pack. It made for an interesting crop.

And I must confess that I started too many seeds this year (some usually don’t come up) so I had lots of tomato seedlings to share with neighbors and friends. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fess up to what kind of tomatoes they were – you have to take your chances when seedlings are free.

Tomatoes are really the only crop to preserve this year -we ate everything else. That will mean canning a few jars of quartered tomatoes, tomato sauce and making a large batch of pasta sauce to freeze.

I love low acid tomatoes whether yellow or orange, but I had not thought the consequences of canning this color of love apple.  They do look weird to say the least – (but so yummy) and pasta sauce is probably not going to be in their future, but they’ll add wonderful flavor to soups and stews, not to mention eating them straight from the jars.

For those who have never tasted low-acid orange (cherry size) tomatoes, the flavor is outstanding. I would plant those again, rather than the red cherry variety. And the tiny pear-shaped yellow tomatoes were mild and flavorful. Harvesting such an assortment of tomatoes was a blessing.

Tomatoes are considered a high acid food and can be canned with a waterbath process – the easiest, but not necessarily the fastest method of home canning. In order to make home canning safe to eat, it’s imperative that you practice recommended guidelines when it comes to canning foods.

I found an interesting video on canning tomatoes which follows these accepted guidelines, so it’s a good site to check if you’re not familiar with home canning.  You can also check out my home canning and preserving articles on About.com to get an idea of what is involved. Simply heating up tomatoes, placing them in a jar and hearing the lid drop, is NOT safe canning. There’s a lot more to home canning if you want a safe product for your family to eat. But canning is extremely rewarding and worth the effort.

Tomatoes can also be preserved by freezing. Many consider this the most efficient way to keep them for later. Some peel tomatoes first and others remove seeds, then place in freezer containers or bags.  Because I know how to can foods, I prefer canning than freezing. It also leaves my freezer for other things.


How to Easily Peel Tomatoes for Freezing or Canning:

  • Cut an X in the bottom of the tomato, just to break the skin
  • Drop in boiling water for about 10 seconds
  • Transfer to cold water
  • Remove core
  • Skin peels off easily

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