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by Kellie Parks, Extension Master Gardener
This time of year is so satisfying when we reap the harvest of our labors, however it can sometimes be overwhelming. What to do when you can’t possibly eat every cucumber, zucchini, or tomato, and the neighbors are crying ‘uncle’? Preserve it! Home food preservation need not be intimidating, and doesn’t require too much of a financial investment, as the equipment needed is minimal and can easily be obtained, sometimes at flea markets and yard sales. Yes, there are more specialized tools that can make the process easier, but one can do without those when getting started. Foods with low acidity require more careful processing to ensure their safety when canning, but can be frozen and dried as well.
The first thing that my mother made certain I had, even before I had my canning pot, was the ‘Blue Book’: Ball’s Blue Book of Preserving. Hers was well-loved, with dog eared and wrinkled pages, notes in the margins, total quantities of items ‘put up’ by year in the front and back covers, and slips of paper with with handwritten recipes tucked inside. There are multiple editions available, both new and used. This one book contains all the instruction one needs to get started, including the science behind food preservation, list of needed equipment, cautions and warnings, and many recipes.
There are several websites dedicated to food preservation, and just as many both virtual and print publications to be found. Here are a few to get you started:
Our own MSU Extension has published a comprehensive resource called Home Storage of Fruits and Vegetables. It is free and can be found here: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/home_storage_of_fruits_and_vegetables_e1696
The National Center for Food Preservation is a wonderful resource for every method of preservation. From the website: “The National Center for Home Food Preservation” is your source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. The Center was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (CSREES-USDA) to address food safety concerns for those who practice and teach home food preservation and processing methods.” https://nchfp.uga.edu/
If you tend to learn better by watching something done, there are a number of YouTube videos available, also.
This is a sampling from MSU Extension’s library of videos:
Intro to Safe Preservation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=894EohXmvwE
Safe Pressure Canning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COjmM04i1ck
Water Bath Canning Basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eVXHsWJDlg
I hope you will give home food preservation a try. Opening up a jar of home canned tomatoes or peaches in the dead of winter is like opening up a jar of summer. It will give your spirits a lift on the dreariest of days.
by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener
On a Tuesday evening, a nice sized group met at the DeYoung Nature area off E. Cherry Bend Rd to walk along with Levi Meeuwenberg (subbing for Jonathon Alyward), on the Edible Trail. The trail was a project started in 2014 to create an edible forest which would blend in with the community, TART Trail and other nature related organizations. The TART group gave permission to use a portion of land alongside the trail and the Land Conservancy pitched in as well. Money was raised and once the planting areas chosen, volunteers used the lasagna or sheet mulching method to install the selected native plants. Currants, Nanking Cherry, French Sorrel, rhubarb, and others have survived in this short but interesting path. Some goals of this and other edible forests are to build soil, increase biodiversity, and improve insect and wildlife habitats. With our dry hot summer, the trail was looking a little needy and Levi suggested a visit, any time, to pull some weeds and trim here and there. MG trainee, Chris Heyman, volunteered to be the point person from MG’s and to help make this a Master Gardener project so that volunteers can earn volunteers hours woking on the Edible Trail project. Thanks for the walk on such a beautiful evening, Levi!