Harvest season is upon us, and that means you may have more herbs and produce coming out of your garden than you know how to deal with! GeoPot is here to help with some handy tips on how to preserve all of the goodies coming out of your grow.
Before preserving your produce, you will first want to make sure that you’re harvesting your plants properly. For specific tips on how to harvest fruits and veggies, check out our blog post on How to Harvest Container Garden Vegetables.
Harvesting herbs? Don’t forget these general rules:
- Harvest a maximum of ⅓ of the plant at a time.
- Take cuttings in the morning before the sun has a chance to wilt the leaves for better flavor.
- Clean your scissors between plants to reduce the risk of spreading diseases. Check out Harvest More’s Scissor Scrubber for a tool that makes cleaning your scissors between harvests easy!
With so many ways to preserve your harvest, here are some of the top methods to save your fruits, herbs, and vegetables:
One of the most popular methods of preserving hard-earned harvests is air-drying. This is a good way to preserve product if you’d like to keep your herbs in dry storage, or for saving fruits and veggies without added ingredients. If you are drying hops or other herbs in need of further processing, check out our TrimBag for quick and easy mechanical trimming without damaging your product, and Trim Bin for an ergonomic option for trimming your herbs by hand!
There are plenty of options for air-drying herbs, fruits, and veggies, and some processes work better depending on the product you’re preserving. Here are the three best methods of air-drying your product:
Hanging dry is perfect for preserving herbs or other products that don’t have a high water content. Once cut, herbs can be washed, patted dry, and bundled in small batches before tying up to hang dry. It’s best to hang bunches in small paper bags with holes cut in them for air circulation--the paper bag keeps dust off of the herbs you are drying. If you’re drying herbs in bulk, our Zipper Dry and Buckle Dry racks can come in handy, with easily accessible mesh trays that allow for maximum airflow while still keeping out dust and pests.
Many people have small personal dehydrators at home, and use these to dry both herbs and sliced fruits or vegetables. Make sure if you are using this method that you follow the instructions on your device carefully to avoid over- or under-drying your products.
A more labor-intensive way of drying your produce is by using your home oven. Place your product on an oven-safe baking tray and leave in the oven at around 100 degrees for a few hours. This method requires constant monitoring, rotating, and often adjusting the temperature to avoid cooking or crisping your product and for this reason it can yield inconsistent results.
Freezing is another easy way to preserve your herbs, fruits, and vegetables! This method is better at preserving the flavor of some herbs, such as mint, basil, and parsley, and is a surefire way to preserve excess vegetables and fruit you have harvested.
Slice and Dice
Many garden fruits and veggies can be sliced, bagged, and frozen for up to 12 months for later use in smoothies or as cooking ingredients. Zucchini in particular is a versatile vegetable that can be shredded and used for zucchini bread, sliced for use in stir frys, or spiral-cut into zoodles. All of these cuts can be frozen until ready for use.
Fresh cut herbs are great to freeze as well. Consider pulling whole leaves from herbs like mint and basil; these can be frozen on trays between layers of parchment or wax paper so that they don’t stick together and stored in ziplock bags once fully frozen.
Butter or Oil
If you want to get creative, you can freeze portions of herbs in butter or oil.
To make an herb butter, decide on your amount and blend of herbs and mix with softened butter on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Once well blended, use the paper to roll and mold your butter into your desired shape, trim the paper, and store in a ziplock bag or Tupperware in the freezer until ready to use.
You can also prep herbs in oil for cooking by taking your fresh cut herbs, portioning them out into an ice cube tray, and covering with olive oil. Once frozen, these cubes can be taken out of the tray and stored in a bag or Tupperware in the freezer until you need them.
Canning is a perfect preservation method for many fruits and vegetables, with hundreds of recipes to choose from, including jams, sauces, and even pickles! There are a few different methods:
Hot Water Bath
Hot water bath canning is the most commonly used canning method and involves preparing and sealing the jars in a pot of boiling water. Bath length varies depending on the recipe, and the temperature needed to sanitize and seal the jars isn’t as high as
with pressure canning. This method is ideal for higher acidity foods, such as jams, jellies, and sauces.
Pressure canning is used on low-acidity foods because the jars are able to reach a higher temperature to destroy food-borne bacteria. This method is commonly used for canning meats, but can also be used for salsa and vegetables. Follow the instructions for your pressure canner when using this method.
When preserving foods, pickling is a viable option for many types of produce. People don’t just make pickles out of cucumbers! Other great pickled foods include green beans, garlic, beets, and even apples and plums. Pickling involves the creation of an acidic environment to kill harmful bacteria, either with vinegar or brine. Follow the instructions for the specific recipe you’re using, as pickling times can vary.
Storing Preserved Product
Storing your preserved product is a whole other beast, but here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your product out of direct sunlight, or store in opaque containers.
- Always label your product with the date and ingredients.
- Store the oldest items in front so that you are using up the food that will go bad first.
And lastly, if you’re processing bulk herbs and looking for food grade bags to store them in, check out Left Coast Wholesale’s Turkey Bags for a cost-effective and safe storage solution.
We hope this article will help you with preserving your harvest this year! What is your personal favorite method of preserving the fruits of your labors? Let us know in the comments!