Planning to preserve?

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Thoughts on planning this spring’s garden to prepare for this fall’s preservation

By Deanna Godman

What needs to be done in the spring in order to prepare for food preservation through the harvest?

Minnie Naive has cut back on her canning and no longer plants a garden. She only cans tomatoes, pickles, jam and jellies now. The only vegetables she grows at home these days are tomatoes. The rest of the produce she uses she either purchases or gets from friends with gardens. She sometimes freezes corn if she picks up extra from the market or a friend.
“We eat a lot of tomatoes all through the summer,” said Naive. “Whenever we have excess, I can. We plant for the purpose of having them fresh though.”
Even when Naive did have a garden at home, she was not planning for preserving the harvest.
“My idea of a garden was to have fresh produce in summertime. Any excess would be canned,” said Naive, with the exception of green beans. “With green beans, I intended to can those.”
For jam, Naive gets blackberries,  both tame and wild brambles that grow on her farm. She cans cherries and pears that she gets from the tree of a friend. Cucumbers come from either the farmers market or a friend who has excess of her own.
According to Shirley Thomas, “Now is the time to start planning to get the soil in shape.”
It is free to have soil samples tested through the Extension office to see what amendments might be needed. It is also a good time to decide what seeds and plants to buy. Thomas likes to try out new varieties of fruits and vegetables each year.
While neither Thomas nor Naive’s families really did this, even when they did have large gardens, one way to prepare for preserving the harvest is to preplan how much will be needed in the coming months. Making a list of how often a vegetable might be wanted once preserved can help when planning how many to plant. If a family eats green beans almost every day, then 300 quarts of green beans would be a reasonable goal. A family who eats spaghetti once a month and pizza once a week might want to ensure they plant enough paste tomatoes, such as roma or San Marzano tomatoes, to have enough for canning tomato sauce.
“We planned out what we needed more when we farmed more,” said Thomas.
Thomas’ family no longer has a large garden either, but they do can tomatoes, beans, beets, and pickles, and freeze strawberries, corn, blackberries and raspberries. They also make fermented sauerkraut from cabbage they grow.
“I think spring cabbage is better than fall cabbage to make kraut,” said Thomas. “It’s firmer in the spring.”
Thomas recommends thinking about weed control and irrigation now before the gardening gets well under way. She likes to lay down newspapers and cover it with mulch, such as straw, for weed control.
Thomas suggests purchasing vegetables for preservation when they are easier for others to grow. She loves asparagus, but prefers to purchase it locally rather than grow it herself. The same goes for some fruits, such as peaches.
“It can be just as economical to buy some things that are harder to grow,” said Thomas.


Evelyn Tindle gave Thomas her sauerkraut recipe:

20 lbs cabbage, shredded
1 cup salt

Mix shredded cabbage and salt together. Pack tight in a stone jar. Wash whole cabbage leaves and put on top of the packed cabbage. Weigh down and cover with cloth. If scum appears on the juice, skim off.
Sauerkraut will be ready to can in 2 weeks. Pack in jars and fill with juice off kraut. If there’s not enough juice, use 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 quart water. Hot water process for 20 minutes.