Gardening maintenance is probably on a lot of minds lately. When should I get the carrots out? Will my greens last another frost? What on earth can I do with all this spinach?
After asking myself these questions, I began my search for the best ways of preserving my valuable produce.
Canning and other heating techniques have been used for hundreds of years. But, as described in Part 1 from August 4, heating foods decreases the vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content of foods.
Heating can also destroy much-needed enzymes. Having said that, heat preservation does allow a certain degree of minerals and vitamins to be preserved, and fibre will still be intact.
I love being able to pick out a jar of wonderful preserves or other canned goods to feed my family late in the winter!
THREE HEATING TECHNIQUES
1. Pickling. Zucchinis, beets, radishes, onions, and garlic are some of the popular pickling vegetables. Pickling typically increases the sodium content of your food because of the added salt. ?Salt is necessary, but you can find tasty reduced-salt pickling recipes.
There’s also a pickling technique that uses boiled liquid brine poured over raw cucumbers. Not boiling the cucumbers should leave more nutrition behind, so it’s worth a try!
2. Canning. All methods of canning require high heat to seal the jars. This high heat will destroy some of the nutrients, but it’s much cheaper than buying from the store, and properly-canned goods will last for years.
Our family favourite is our rhubarb preserves. We got a great deal on fresh berries (we used saskatoons and strawberries), and simmered them with our rhubarb, some honey and spices until it reduced a bit. Then we canned it. What a treat!
Take some time to research canning if you haven’t done it before, or ask people who know. Things such as like sterilizing jars, checking temperatures, timing, and proper cooling procedures are all vital to success.
But don’t let that deter you, because it’s a delicious way to preserve some of your garden items. Once you have completed the canning process the seal on the jar will prevent further nutrient loss. Some good information and recipes are at www.canningpantry.com/canning-technique.html.
Two more canning tips before I move on. One: removing the skins before canning will reduce the nutritional value, so it’s best to keep the skins on.
And two, some nutrients are preserved in the liquid in the jar so don’t discard it, consume it.
3. Blanching. This is a quick boil technique used for vegetables that will be stored in the freezer.
Because it is a fast boil, fewer nutrients are lost than during a longer cooking process. The heat will cause some (but not all) vitamin and mineral loss, and the fibre will still be highly useful.
The result is a well-preserved vegetable that can be used in soups, lasagnes, and more. ?Spinach, arugula, broccoli, beans, beets, onions, peppers, and peas can all be blanched.
When you are storing food in the freezer, make sure there is very little air in the packages and that they are completely sealed off (to prevent freezer burn and nutrient loss).
You can consult www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze/blanching.html for more information, including blanching times specific to the vegetables you want to freeze.
You can also save the water you are blanching in and use it for making soups, because it will contain some of the lost nutrients.
Next year when you are planning your garden, you may want to make a list of all the things you would like to plant. Indicate what you will eat over the summer and how you want to preserve the rest (and what you have time for!).
I hope this gives you insight on how to best store your produce so it will last, most nutritiously (and deliciously!), over our long Yukon winter.
Here is a breakdown of produce typically grown in the Yukon and possible preservation methods:
Beans Blanch, dehydrate, pickle
Broccoli Blanch, dehydrate
Cabbage Ferment, freeze, hang
Cauliflower Blanch, hang
Carrots Blanch, dehydrate, pickle, sand storage
Celery Blanch, dehydrate
Cucumbers Can, pickle
Lettuce Dig up and move into a sunny spot in home
Onions Freeze, dehydrate, pickle
Parsnip Blanch, sand storage
Peas Blanch, can, dehydrate
Pepper Dehydrate, freeze
Potatoes Dehydrate, sand storage
Radish Pickle, sand storage (shorter periods)
Raspberries Can, freeze
Rhubarb Can, freeze
Rutabagas Blanch, sand storage (need some moisture in the sand)
Spinach Blanch, dehydrate
Squash Can, dehydrate, freeze, hang
Tomatoes Dehydrate (or sun-dry), can