How to Naturally Preserve Fruits and Veggies this Winter
Each year, Autumn delivers a cornucopia of seasonal delights to tempt each of the senses: A rich palette of colorful leaves that rustle in the breeze, the scent of cozy fires burning, and the taste of freshly harvested fall fruits and vegetables. Now is the time to head to the produce section or farmer’s market in search of the best locally grown goods—from apples and pears to pumpkins and potatoes—so you can preserve them properly through the winter months.
Why locally grown fruits and veggies?
For starters, buying local is extremely eco-friendly. It’s estimated that most food travels over 1,000 miles from the field or pasture to your plate! That’s a lot of fuel being burned to ship food around the world. Plus, tons of energy is used to keep food frozen or refrigerated during its journey. Buying local cuts down on food miles and wasted energy. It also helps support your region’s economy, as you’re putting money directly into the pockets of the farmers in your area. Additionally, even if it isn’t grown organically, local produce is often safer, as small-scale farmers tend to use less aggressive farming methods and fewer chemicals than industrial farming methods.
Perhaps the most important reason for buying local, at least when it comes to preserving, is freshness. Locally grown foods are often picked a day or two before they make it to market, ensuring they’re at their peak ripeness and ready for preservation. And once you smell and taste their fresh flavors, you’ll want to save every last piece of produce so you can continue to sample them through the winter.
There are several methods for preserving fall’s bounty, including canning, freezing, drying, and making jams and jellies. Which one you use depends on the food you’re looking to store. The University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation has excellent step-by-step information and tips on each method on their web site at www.uga.edu/nchfp, but here’s a quick run through to get you started storing everything the season has to offer.
This method is perfect for storing fruits and vegetables that have a high water content. Water in foods allows for the growth of bacteria and mold over time, but canning techniques help remove oxygen to prevent the growth of these organisms and keep the food safe. Just about any fall favorite can be canned.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables keep well in the freezer and it’s often the best way to help these foods retain their nutrients. If done properly, freezing can also help produce retain its color, texture, and flavor and can keep foods tasty for 2 to 3 months. The key is to blanch vegetables in hot water before packing them for freezer storage.
Drying food is simple—and you don’t even need any special equipment to do it. Look online for recipes for homemade fruit leathers (a favorite with kids) or try oven drying pumpkin and sunflower seeds for snacking or adding to salads. You can even make your own popcorn by air-drying the kernels right on the cob.
4. Jams and Jellies
Sugar is the main preserving agent in these sweet treats that keep fruits tasty through winter. Again, the key is to choose the freshest, sweetest fruits in order to make the best jellies and jams (the latter is made with fruit chunks, while jellies are made with fruit juice). The web is rampant with jelly recipes, but make sure you don’t alter the sugar amounts, as the sugar is needed to gel the fruit.
If you’re like us, your mouth is watering at the thought of indulging in healthy, local fruits and vegetables year round. Be sure to start stocking up now, before the best of the fall harvest is finished—then be sure to invite us over for biscuits and jam, apple and pumpkin pie and homemade popcorn come December!
This is a special article featured in the Fall 2008 issue of Mambo Sprouts Messenger, filled with the latest natural health and organic product information. Find out more about our newsletters and download PDFs of previous issues.