When fall approaches, that could mean only one thing—harvest! If you’re like us, you have more than you can eat in a week. So we’ve been thinking about all the ways we can preserve our harvest to enjoy in the months to come.
Before you start preserving, make sure you:
- Use fresh, disease-, and
blemish-free vegetables. Overripe,
diseased or blemished veggies can
spoil your whole batch.
- Sanitize work surfaces, equipment,
Before freezing, most veggies should be blanched (plunged in boiling water momentarily) or cooked. Onions and peppers are the exception; they can be sliced and frozen in portions, making it convenient to quickly add to dishes like stir-fries or burritos prepared on the fly. Look to a county extension agency, the USDA, or a food preservation website for specific blanching and cooking times.
Our favorite freezer foods:
- Marinara sauce. Tomatoes can be prolific plants, so make a huge pot
of marinara and freeze it in
meal-sized portions. Try our easy,
roasted tomato marinara recipe.
- Roasted peppers. Roast any pepper
over an open flame (grill or gas
stove) or in the oven. Freeze in
portions. Think of all the money
you’ll save when you pull this pricey
grocery store item out of your
- Salsa Verde. Tomatillo harvest is
heavy at the end of the season. Salsa
is a good way to use your other
vegetables and herbs, too. Freeze
portions of your Salsa Verde to warm
you up in the winter to come.
- Basil. Quickly blanch basil leaves
in very salty water, to keep it fresh
and vivid green. Pat dry leaves, and
blend with olive oil using a blender
or food processor until a soft paste.
Freeze basil oil in ice cube trays
for making pesto later or to use in
Tips for freezing:
- Freeze herbs mixed with olive oil
or butter in ice cube trays, then put
the herb cubes in freezer bags.
First, using a measuring spoon, put
water into the ice cube slots to see
how much each cube portion is, then
you will know how many herb
oil/butter cubes to use in your
- Freeze whole fruits and vegetables
like cherry tomatoes on a cookie
sheet first, and then place them in a
freezer bag; that way they don’t
clump together into a frozen block,
making it easy to remove only what
- Be sure to label and date portion
sizes on frozen items. This labeling
will help with recipes later, and
since most frozen food should be used
within 6 months to a year, it will
help you keep your freezer up to
A dehydrator is a great tool for preserving the harvest, but there are also “low-tech” methods. Nearly any vegetable is a good candidate for dehydration with exception to watery vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, and cucumbers.
- Simply hang herb stems from a string,
out of direct sunlight, in a
dust-free area until crisp. Once
dried, place herbs, on or off the
stem, in sealed containers and use
within 6 to 12 months.
- In low humidity areas, you can
build a “solar dryer” by sandwiching
vegetables between two screens that
are propped up on blocks or
sawhorses. Place the solar dryer in
an area that is about 85°F and if
situated outdoors, be mindful of rain
or other weather conditions that
could ruin your efforts.
- With a watchful eye, use the oven,
set to a low temperature to dehydrate
- When using a dehydrator, dehydrate
one crop at a time to avoid the
Our favorite dehydrated food ideas:
- Dehydrate vegetables and herbs for
a soup mix to use on a cold winter
day; for camping; or to give as
gifts. Freeze, or pack dehydrated
foods in a minimum of oil, to extend
- Vegetable leathers (just like fruit
leathers but with vegetables) are a
delicious and nutritious snack for
kids on the run.
Home fermenting, also know as pickling, is fun, rewarding, and requires minimal equipment. The practice of fermenting originated long ago as a way to preserve food without refrigeration. Fermented foods are generally soaked in brine for a period of a couple hours to several weeks. During this time, colors and flavors change, and acidity increases. The fermenting food stays below the level of the brine, therefore oxygen free, preventing main culprits like mold or bacteria from spoiling the goods. All that is needed to start the fermenting process is a glass or ceramic container and salt. Follow a fermentation recipe to be sure the acidity is high enough to be safe.
Our favorite fermented foods:
- Sauerkraut. Add shredded or chopped
cabbage to a brine solution. Many
other vegetables and spices can be
added for variety.
- Sour Pickles. Old-fashioned
brine-fermented cucumber pickles are
customizable, crisp, and delightfully
- Kim Chi. A traditional Korean side
dish, versatile, and delicious. Kim
chi is often made using Napa cabbage,
radish, bunching onions, and hot
peppers, but 200 or more recipes
exist. Kim chi can simply be eaten
with steamed rice, or incorporated
into fried rice or savory pancakes.
If done safely, nearly all fruits and vegetables can be canned. Safe canning eliminates bacteria, yeast, mold, and enzymes, which spoil food. Once you know safe canning methods, you will need some equipment to get started, including canning jars and lids, a pot or pressure cooker, and possibly a few more tools for handling jars safely. All the foods mentioned in freezing and fermenting can also be canned.
Our favorite canning foods:
- Jams. Vegetable jams are delicious!
Follow a recipe for canning tomato or
pepper jams and enjoy for breakfast,
lunch, or dinner all year.
- Pumpkins. You don’t have to wait
season to enjoy fresh pumpkin from
your garden. Cut into cubes or pureé
- Green beans. Nothing beats fresh
picked beans eaten right in the
garden except possibly dill green
beans. Crisp, dilly, and garlicky,
this ready-to-serve side is a welcome
ray of sunshine on the dinner table.