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Green Tip: Save your Summer Harvest!

Green Tips | September 22, 2017

At the end of summer and start of fall, your garden and nearby farmers’ markets will be flourishing with fresh, healthy food. While the abundance of goodies may seem as fleeting as the summer sun, you can preserve some of your produce for the upcoming months. Canning and pickling your food is not only a fun activity, but it has various health and environmental benefits.

If you create your own preserves, jams, and jellies, you ensure that there are no extra additives and BPAs in your foods. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is found in food packaging and other plastics. According to Medical News Today, BPA is connected to heart disease, brain function, memory, and asthma. By preparing your own food, you can completely avoid risks associated with BPA.

Preserving your own food can minimize your environmental impact too. When you crave a peach or strawberry in December, they likely come from a warmer climate thousands of miles away from New York. The planes, trains, and trucks that transport produce from a farm in South America to the local supermarket emit a large amount greenhouse gases each year. By saving your those peaches or strawberries, you cut down on the carbon footprint your normal grocery list entails.

When you start to can, freeze, or pickle your food, you also begin to eat locally year round. Produce from your garden or a local farmer is picked at its peak season, so it usually tastes better than store-bought fruits and vegetables. Not only will your preserved foods improve the taste of most of your meals, but it will be healthier. Additionally, locally bought food negates the necessity of middle men who are involved in a supermarket’s chain of distribution. Because the food you eat is only from your area, there are no processing facilities, manufacturing plants, or warehouses that will add additives to your harvest and increase the amount of time between when a crop is picked and eaten.

Reusables can also be used when you begin to preserve your food! Freezer friendly containers like ice cream cartons are perfect for freezing strawberries and tomatoes. Ready to begin canning, freezing, and preserving? Articles by Organic Life and Gardener’s Supply Company list possible methods of preservation for specific crops. A blog post by Earth911 also describes different methods that can be used to save your produce for winter.

Here is our summary of ways to prevent specific garden veggies from going to waste:

Eggplant:
To preserve eggplants in the freezer, they should first be peeled, sliced, and cooked for best results. Eggplant can be breaded and fried, blanched, and cooked or dehydrated in the oven.

Tomatoes:
Tomatoes can be preserved by canning them chopped or whole, creating a tomato sauce or paste, drying them, or just freezing them whole. Juicier tomatoes are the best to freeze, while low-moisture tomatoes are the best to dry.

Peppers:
Peppers can be frozen to preserve them, and different methods are suggested for different peppers: bell and sweet peppers should be cut before freezing, and hot peppers can be frozen whole. Extra peppers can also be dried, pickled, and made into canned salsa.

Zucchini:
There are many ways to preserve excess zucchini. The vegetable can be shredded and frozen, used to bake zucchini bread or muffins (which can be frozen for 4 months – 12 months), blanched and frozen, made into a butter, or made into a stew.

Corn:
Corn can be frozen in three forms: on the cob, blanched off the cob, and unblanched off the cob. We suggest checking out this article to review the pros and cons of each method, and to find the one best for you.

Greens:
Experts recommend that Swiss Chard can be frozen for up to a year after blanching the stems, and other greens should have their leaves blanched can be preserved in the freezer as well.

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