How to wisely harvest and preserve produce from a family garden

Concerning planning, I suggest the following:

Plant family favorites, plus some new ones.- Involve all family members.

Extend the harvest with small plantings every two to four weeks.

Increase growing space by planting vines near fences and placing food producers among ornamental growth.

Plant adequate amounts to meet your family's needs.

Plan to be in the vicinity at harvest time.

Concerning harvesting, I suggest:

Check regularly to observe growth, ripeness and prevent pests.

Pick fresh daily and use; adjust your winter menu.

Use produce as snacks or for nibbling while in the garden.

Keep in production by picking; share excess by donating or trading with friends.

Use or preserve promptly when picked.

Enlist the help of family, friends and neighbors.

Concerning preserving, I suggest:

Consider how each product is best preserved and then don't let it stay on the shelf too long.

Learn some new options by exchanging recipes with friends or entering preserved items in the local fair.

Organize a neighborhood canning session where a production line streamlines time and resources.

Evaluate what has been preserved periodically to make adjustments for family size, dietary changes and food preferences. - Donna P. Galloway, Albuquerque, N.M.

What we did:

Dried produce

We have grown a garden and fruit trees most of our 50 years of married life and have preserved it in different ways for future use. Zucchini squash is a vegetable that produces quite heavily for a short time. Slice it lengthwise in thin slices with perhaps some season salt and dry it in the sun or in the dehydrator, depending on the humidity. It is good cooked with beans and soups. Also we dry grapes by dipping them quickly in and out of boiling water to remove the natural wax. Take them off the stems and dry. - Rollie and Marjorie Childers, Thatcher, Ariz.

Clean, sanitize

Some of the best tips that I have learned from years of experience are the following:

The kitchen sink is one of the most important parts of the preparation and preservation process, yet it is always in use in the household of a large family. The sink needs to be cleared, cleaned and sanitized before the process of washing or blanching can begin. To solve this problem, I made kitchen sink liners from two food grade five-gallon buckets. I cut the tops off so the faucet would be able to swing back and forth over the bucket. The bottom of one of the buckets was drilled with holes to serve as a colander. The buckets can easily be cleaned and stored until needed again.

Peas can be shelled very rapidly if they are blanched first. The blanching time will vary depending on how fleshy the pods are, but they will indicate when they are blanched when the pods start to open at the seams. After cooling, the peas are easily squeezed from the pods with gentle finger pressure.

Tomatoes do not have to be pressure canned to be safely preserved. A quick and easy method is merely to freeze them. Cherry tomatoes can be washed and put directly into freezer bags. Larger tomatoes can be scalded, peeled and quartered before packing into freezer bags. After thawing, they will be mushy, but they make excellent base for spaghetti and pizza sauce, or soups and stews.

Zucchini can be grated and packed raw into freezer bags. When thawed, it can be added to breads, cakes and cookie mixes, or added to casserole dishes.

It is important to discard bent or rusted jar rings. Bent and rusted rings can prevent jars from sealing because they are difficult to adequately tighten. The ring must hold the lid to the lip of the jar both evenly and tightly. - Kelly Winterton, Mountain Green, Utah

Don't expect perfection

The most difficult lesson from a family garden is that most fruit and vegetables do not come perfectly formed and beautiful. There are bruises and bug holes, hard parts and mushy parts. After getting over the fact that your yield does not look like the grocery produce counter, you have to salvage the parts that nature hasn't claimed.

We've found that for apples, peaches and apricots, drying fruit for leather works the best. We cut up the fruit without peeling, add a little sugar and cinnamon, simmer until soft, blend until smooth and spread on plastic trays of an inexpensive dehydrator. If we put the dehydrator outside, we don't heat up the house and take advantage of the warm temperatures of the Arizona summer. In about eight hours, we peel the leather off the trays and store in plastic sandwich bags. Mixing apples with peaches or apricots gives a great texture and flavor. The rolls of fruit are very convenient for camping, traveling and school lunches. - Connie Bishop, Mesa, Ariz.

Family affair

As a busy mom with seven children ages 3 months to 9 years, I find that the garden needs to be a true family affair. The children learn at an early age how to help and each year their skills increase. We try not to harvest more than we can preserve that same day so as to decrease wastage. We also have the children enter some of what they have grown or preserved in the county fair. A blue ribbon is a great motivator! It is very important - and potentially life-saving - to follow current USDA guidelines when preserving food. You can get information on current guidelines from your county extension office, or from a current (no older than three years old) canning guidebook. - Holly Richardson, Orem, Utah

Proper storage

My first advice would be to preserve for available storage area. Many people live in apartments or homes with no place to store anything, so dry all you can, because dried produce takes minimum space. Store in moisture-proof and rodent-proof containers. I store in metal cans with plastic inside.

Second, preserve according to size of family. If only one or two, use small containers, such as pints and half pints. Put into storage bags what each family would use.

Third, plant varieties according to weather, such as Siberian tomatoes for winter and early harvesting.

Fourth, mulching is the best advice I can give everyone, as good, fertile soil can raise anything better. If soil is poor, you waste seeds and time. - E. Hickman, Salt Lake City, Utah

How to checklist:

1 Plan ahead according to family size, needs and storage.

2 Harvest daily only what's needed, don't waste; share with loved ones, the needy.

3 Use current guidelines; ensure work area is sanitized.

4 Learn new preserving methods; join with family, neighbors to save time, resources.


Sept. 7 "How to overcome emotional, physical burnout."

Sept. 14 "How to include a socially underdeveloped child in classes and activities."

Sept. 21 "How to be more optimistic."

Sept. 28 "How to cope with, help a child who is suffering from emotional, mental illness."

Oct. 5 "How to financially prepare your family for missions, education."

Oct. 19 "How to support your wife as she serves as an auxiliary leader."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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