CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you're planning a vegetable garden for the first time, consider the quantity of what you'll grow.
"While a flourishing garden is a sight to behold, dealing with excess vegetables can be a burden,” said Carolyn Raab, Oregon State University Extension food and nutrition specialist.
Your local food bank might be happy to take your overabundance, but you may want to preserve some for later use. Some vegetables, such as lettuce, need to be eaten fresh. Others, such as potatoes and squash, can be stored in cool areas such as a root cellar or basement.
"Most vegetables, however, must be preserved in some way to prevent spoilage by enzymes and microorganisms," Raab said.
People preserve for a variety of reasons, such as continuing a family tradition or because friends do it. Others like to have a high-quality product made from locally grown food, or they simply enjoy a feeling of satisfaction. If you're interested in getting started in food preservation, Raab suggests asking yourself these questions:
- Do I have food preservation skills (such as canning)?
- Do I have time to preserve? Is there someone who can assist?
- Do I have the equipment needed to can, freeze or dry?
- Do I have storage space on the shelf or in the freezer?
- Does my family enjoy preserved vegetables?
- How many preserved vegetables will my family eat during the year?
If you can vegetables other than tomatoes, you must use a pressure canner, Raab warned. "Only a pressure canner can prevent the possibility of botulism, a deadly food-borne illness."
If saving money is one of the primary reasons for preserving food, it's a good idea to consider the costs of equipment and supplies, fuel consumption for running a freezer, personal time and energy and the cost of similar food preserved commercially.
These publications from the OSU Extension Service will help you safely can garden fruits and vegetables.
"Canning Vegetables," (PNW 172), a 14-page guide, offers a safety checklist for pressure canning. It includes information on equipment, preparation of vegetables, packing jars, adding salt, safely sealing jars and storing. You can order this publication for $1 each (plus shipping and handling) by calling 1-800-561-6719, or order online.
"Canning Fruits," (PNW 199), offers instructions on processing fruit in a boiling water canner. It includes information on selecting and preparing equipment, canning methods with or without sugar and specific processing times for each type of fruit. Printed copies ($1 each, plus shipping and handling) may be ordered by calling 1-800-561-6719.
The following food preservation information is online free of charge.