Give the Gift of Preserving the Garden’s Harvest
By MELINDA MYERS
Give a gift that helps your favorite gardeners enjoy the flavors of their garden well past the end of the growing season. Both new and experienced gardeners often spend their gardening budget on plants and seeds, leaving little or none to invest in food preservation equipment and supplies. Prepare your favorite gardener for the next harvest season with some food preservation supplies and equipment.
Canning jars, freezer containers, spice cubes and airtight bottles for canning, freezing, and storing dehydrated herbs and vegetables are always welcome gifts. These supplies come in handy throughout the harvest season and are often in short supply when food preservation is at its peak.
Most gardeners grow their own fresh herbs and drying is the easiest way to preserve the harvest. Simply gather stems, secure them with a rubber band, and suspend them in a warm, dry location. As the stems dry and shrink, the rubber band does as well, keeping the stems secure. Use a spring clothespin to secure the herb bundles to wires or other support. Create your own drying setup or invest in one of the commercial herb drying racks.
If space is limited, your gift recipient will appreciate a system like the Stack-it Herb Drying Rack (gardeners.com) that allows them to dry lots of herbs in a very small footprint. The drying system you purchase or create should provide the needed space for the harvest and allow sufficient air circulation for fast drying.
Herbs with high moisture content like basil, oregano, lemon balm and mints will mold if not dried quickly. If this has been a problem in the past, try placing a small bunch in a paper bag with holes in the side and stems outside the bag. Hang these from a drying rack or speed up the process by using a microwave or food dehydrator.
Many gardeners grow onions, garlic, and potatoes for long-term storage. All three of these vegetables prefer cool, dark storage locations with good air circulation. Separate potatoes from onions that give off pungent gases that can taint the potatoes’ flavor.
Avoid plastic bags that retain moisture and can shorten these vegetwables’ storage life. Breathable potato and onion storage baskets have been used by gardeners for centuries. Boost the style and space savings with the Stackable Bamboo Harvest Storage Basket with Lid. Just stack it as needed and place it on the rolling base for easy storage and accessibility.
Help your gift recipient turn their harvest into something delicious. Fermentation is a relatively easy preservation technique that has been used for thousands of years. Preserve some of your cucumbers as pickles, cabbage as sauerkraut, and berries as preserves with fermentation.
For most projects, you just need fruit or vegetables, water, salt, and spices. The desired ingredients are placed in a covered vessel like a Stoneware Pickling Crock. Weights are used to keep the fruit and vegetables submerged in water throughout the fermentation process.
Consider smaller fermentation kits for those with limited space. A three-liter glass jar with an air-lock lid and ceramic weights will allow you to ferment small quantities of vegetables.
Reduce the workload and boost the enjoyment for those making tomato juice, sauces, and soups. Hand crank and electric tomato presses, strainers and sauce makers allow gardeners to separate the skins and seeds from the tomato meat for quicker and easier processing.
Giving a gift that helps preserve flavors from the recipient’s garden will be useful and remembered for seasons to come.
Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her website is www.MelindaMyers.com.