Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

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As a child, I have vague memories of my mother water bath canning tomatoes, pickles and peaches. Further along in life, the memories change to a multitude of ominous-looking jars on metal racks in the basement containing vitreous fluids, dissolving lumps of… whatever… and bulging lids threatening to detonate at the slightest touch. In other words, food canned but not consumed for many, many years. Canning gone bad. That scared me.

Many years later, as an adult, I eventually challenged the concept of grocery store over-processed and often times GMO’d preserved foods containing what I consider additional unnecessary ingredients. Then there was that large, navy blue-with-white-speckles porcelain canning pot from my childhood memories, figuratively staring me in the face. Being the earth spirit organic foodie gardener that I am, I just had to put my fears aside and carry my torch for healthier foods into a canning foray.

But, of course, first I had to read the book Putting Food By, which focused quite a bit on the charms of botulism poisoning and scared the bejesus out of me once again. Okay, so living in the high-altitude Rocky Mountain region, I also had to consider the challenges of high altitude with its lower boiling temperatures. Canning only high acid foods to be safe, I limited myself to tomatoes, peaches, pickles and jams/jellies and still felt a little nervous eating them. After a couple of years of my congenital “canning-and-rarely-consuming” practices, I sold all of my canning paraphernalia and called it quits.

Fast forward to the present: A large garden, a multitude of plants and other bounties and again that need for a way to preserve and get away from processed foods.

Hence—ta daa—the pressure canner came into my life. Along with it came decades of tales of pressure canners exploding, sending boiling hot shrapnel in all directions, injuries, deaths, the putting out of eyes…  Once again, I set aside my fears, realizing that if I follow directions correctly, canning did not mean taking my or anyone else’s lives in my hands. After all, people have been preserving food since the beginning of time. And it gets safer and safer.

But canning is a time-consuming proposition and that really is, I think, a major consideration, aside from the fact that you do need to purchase things like the jars, the canning equipment, tools and some other accessories to make the process go smoothly. Always use the right tools for the job.

So, at the bare minimum you will need canning jars with lids and bands. For canning, new lids are always a must as a perfect seal is of the utmost importance. Next, you’ll need either a water bath or pressure canner. A water bath canner (about $20) is okay if you’re on a budget and don’t want to can anything beyond high-acid foods as mentioned above. If you get a pressure canner, which costs about 4 times as much (about $80), you can also use it as a water bath canner plus use it for cooking. The canners come with a canning rack (if you’re going to double-layer jars in the pressure canner, add a second rack for about $10). A kit of canning tools (funnel, tongs, lid lifter/bubble remover, jar lifters) will cost about $12. If you want to make life easier when removing, for instance, skins and seeds from tomatoes, a food mill is helpful ($35+). So a bit of a cost in the beginning, but it should all pay for itself the first year if you have a decent garden harvest and tend to cook a lot.

Then there’s the process of cleaning, preparing and cooking the foods you’re going to can, sterilizing the jars and lids, following canning recipes very closely for safety reasons, learning how to make altitude adjustments in time and pressure settings, following the canner’s instructions implicitly, being willing to stay in a hot kitchen for hours and not take your eyes off the pressure gauge if you’re going that route — plus a big cleanup job in the end. It’s really not a terrible amount of hassle to go through considering it’s possible to can an entire year’s worth of tomato sauce, paste, spaghetti sauce, apple sauce, juice or whatever your desire, in just a few days. Not only will you have guaranteed better quality food, but glass jars do not leach harmful chemicals into the foods like cans do and you can reuse the jars and bands over and over so there’s really no footprint. One of my favorite places to go for canning recipes is SB Canning. This is the third year I’ve made their Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce — I love the stuff and use it for more than pasta. And yes, they mean 6 bulbs (heads) of garlic and not 6 cloves!

If this all sounds like too much work to you, no worries! There are other ways to preserve foods, which you can read about in my post on Preserving Food, More Options Than Just Canning. Plus, wide-mouth pint canning jars are freezer safe (look for that on the labels), so you can instead FREEZE your favorite sauces, soups, stews, chili, stocks etc. and they keep just as nicely. For freezing, you can re-use the canning lids as long as they aren’t nicked or rusting. You can also read about this process in my post No More Canned Soup. Important: For freezing, make sure you use the wide mouth jars that are freezer-safe and leave 1” of space at the top for expansion so the jars don’t break.

Canning is not for everyone, but even if you’re short on time there are still ways you can preserve foods so you’re not forced to buy canned products at the grocery store.

Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado.  When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban Farmer.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


After you have dehydrated and vacuum-sealed your garden's goodies, it's time to store them either for use during the winter and early spring months, or for those people who wish to have on hand an emergency supply of food — this post covers both!

I love to use Mason jars. Why? They are great for storing dehydrated food for daily/weekly use. It's so easy to screw off a lid, rather than having to cut the top seal off a vacuum-sealed pouch then having to re-vacuum seal it. Mason jars store easily in your kitchen cupboards making them a handy go-to while cooking your favorite recipe.

Use Oxygen Absorbers

With the use of Mason jars, I still use oxygen absorbers (more on those coming up in the next post). An easy way to know if the oxygen absorber is defunct is to listen for a "pop" when you unscrew the lid. If you hear that, then you know there's still some life left in the oxygen absorber. When it's completely dead, replace it.

What Size Oxygen Absorber To Use?

In my quart-size Mason jars I use a 100cc oxygen absorber, just like we use in the vacuum-sealed pouches. For the smaller pint-size Mason jars, a 50cc oxygen absorber is ample. So why use different sized jars? For lesser-used veggies, such as garlic in my case, the slices of dried garlic fit easily into the smaller half-pint Mason jars. Sometimes I'll use an "almost dead" 100cc oxygen absorber for use in the smaller half-pint Mason jars, therefore bypassing the need to purchase the smaller oxygen absorbers.

It doesn't take long to fill a quart-sized Mason jar with celery, corn, peas, hash-brown potatoes — and these are the mainstays of great soups! Back to the garlic slices: They're easy to crumble up into soups and stews.

Mylar Bags

As an alternative to Mason jars — especially for long-term storage — I highly recommend storing your vacuum-sealed pouches in Mylar bags. They're rip-proof, water-proof, and block out the light. Yes, the three enemies to food storage: Air, light, and water. Do a search online for Mylar bags. Amazon have them (but then again, what does Amazon NOT have?) The size of Mylar bags I choose to use are 10" x 14". Many times, the Mylar bags are bundled with oxygen absorbers so take that into consideration while perusing.

A quick note about Mylar bags: DO NOT attempt to draw the air out of them. Only the vacuum-sealed pouches have the air removed — in fact, it's pretty darn near impossible to draw the air out of a Mylar bag because both inner sides of the bag are smooth. When the bag is clamped in the food vacuum-sealer, the air cannot pass through! (In contrast, the vacuum-sealer bags have one inner "side" textured to allow for air-removal.)

I attempt to put in four vacuum-sealed pouches of food into each Mylar bag at the most. Don't overstuff — there's less risk of puncturing the vacuum-sealed pouches.

Plastic Lidded Bins

The use of plastic lidded bins are great for storing pouches of vacuum-sealed foods that are contained in the Mylar bags. If the plastic bin is classed as "airtight," then by all means you can add a 2,000cc oxygen absorber before snapping on the lid. For the most part, these plastic lidded bins are NOT airtight (the handles usually leak air) so I don't recommend wasting a 2,000cc oxygen absorber.

So why use these bins? They're great for stacking and are well-suited for long-term food storage! In a future post I'll show you how I made a great storage area along a bare wall instead of taking over a closet.

Feed Buckets with Lids

Head on down to your local DIY store and pick up some FOOD-grade buckets (#2 food grade). Don't forget the lids! Or you can go to Amazon. These buckets are definitely air-tight so please feel free to use the 2,000cc oxygen absorbers in the bucket along with your Mylar-bagged pouches.

Do I have to use the Mylar bags? No. But they help segregate your food — keeps you organized. Also, the Mylar bags are great for writing on the date and noting what's in it! Use a fine-tipped black felt marker.

Regarding the buckets: Amazon also have some special lids that you snap on called Gamma2 Lids — and the interior of the lids screw out. The manufacturers claim they are air-tight. Hey, they are great — have you ever had sore fingers from trying to pry off lids (especially in cold weather). Ouch! These save the day (and your fingers!).

Folk also use these big buckets with the screw-out lid centers to store their bulk dry dog and cat food. A user noted that she stored flour too without any bug problems.

Oxygen Absorbers Up Next!

In the next post, I'll get into oxygen absorbers and cover why they are necessary to combat mold-growth.

To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies too—for long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry full—whatever the reason or season!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Giardiniera Garden Vegetables
Giardiniera Pickles

Giardiniera comes from the word giardino, or garden in Italian, and is literally a garden pickle. The vegetable combination is very flexible, but the flavor profile usually includes at least hot and sweet peppers. This pickle is meant to be made from what you have on hand. I love giardiniera chopped up on sandwiches, tossed in pasta salads and eaten along side a nice grilled steak.

Gather up what you have left in the garden, from your neighbors or from your local farmers market, and pickle the best of it before it’s all gone.

Garden Vegetables for Giardiniera

Mixed Vegetable Giardiniera Pickle Recipe


• 3 quarts mixed chopped vegetables like zucchini, yellow squash, kohlrabi, cauliflower, sweet peppers, hot peppers, carrots, celery, onions, yellow beets, radishes, green tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.
• 1/2 cup salt
• 4 cloves garlic quartered
• 4 hot chiles, halved
• 1 bunch fresh oregano
• 2 tsp red pepper flakes
• 1 tsp celery seeds
• 2 tsp crushed black peppercorns
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar


1. Cut vegetables into chunks, slices or planks, just so that everything is similarly sized.  Leave green cherry tomatoes, small onions/beets/radishes whole.  

2. In a large bowl combine all the vegetables and 1/2 cup salt.  Cover with water. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to sit on the countertop overnight.  

3. The next day, drain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly with cold water. 

4. Prepare your water bath canner.  Place 4-5 pint jars in the water bath to warm. 

5. Bring the vinegar and water to a simmer in a separate pot.  Into the hot jars, divide the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, celery seed and peppercorns. 

6. Pack the vegetables into the jars, then pour over the vinegar solution. 

7. Add the lids and process the pints for 10 minutes.

8. To serve, dress the pickles with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, course salt and freshly ground pepper.

Yield 4-5 pints

Giardiniera Pickles

Tammy Kimbler is the blogger of One tomato, two tomato. A cultivator at heart, Tammy’s passions lie with food, preservation, gardening and connecting to her local community through blogging and urban agriculture. She eats well and love to feed others as often as possible. She currently resides with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



About 25 years ago, my daughter and I spent a few days visiting old haunts in New Orleans, mostly eating. We treated ourselves to the famous Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters, which was wonderful — fun, good music and delicious food.

One dish impressed me so much, I begged for the recipe. Our server took my plea to the kitchen and the chef actually sent down a copy!

I have made some minor changes, using olive oil in place of part of the butter, offering substitutions and expanding the directions for the home cook. “Eggplant Court” has become a traditional part of our holiday meals.

‘Court of Two Sisters’ Eggplant Casserole Recipe

This casserole freezes well. Take advantage of fall eggplant harvest and make a double recipe. Freeze in serving-sized containers for winter meals. I like to prepare just the vegetables and freeze packets to finish into the casserole later.

Don’t worry about reheating — it will all be gone. (But also don’t tell the meat-and-potatoes guys that it’s eggplant!)


• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 red bell peppers, diced
• 1 celery stalk, sliced thinly
• 2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut to ½-inch dice
• several large cloves roasted garlic
• 1/2 stick of butter
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (dried is fine, too)
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• freshly ground pepper, several turns of the mill

Ingredients for the second stage

• 1 pound creole Andouille sausage, shredded**
• 1 cup parsley, cut with scissors
• 9 cups fresh bread crumbs from 1 loaf French bread
• 6 eggs, lightly beaten


Directions, Stage 1

1. Start by dicing all the vegetables, mounding them up on a big cutting board or on a sheet of wax paper or parchment.

2. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter in the oil and begin cooking the onion, pepper and celery. Season well with the thyme, salt and pepper. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the eggplant and continue cooking, covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are fully soft. Do not brown.

3. Remove from heat, taste and add sea salt and pepper to taste.                                                               

4. Stop here if you’d like to freeze the eggplant mixture for a later date. Doesn’t that look delicious? I’m going to freeze this batch of veggies now and bring it out in a couple weeks to finish and bake for a special dinner.

5. When you’re ready to finish the casserole for a special dinner, completely defrost the eggplant mix, turn it into a large bowl and continue on:

Directions, Stage 2

1. Butter your baking dish. I like to use a 3-quart soufflé or deep casserole dish. If you’d like more crust, a 9-by-13 baking dish will work.

2. Salt and pepper can seem to disappear when frozen; taste a bit of the eggplant and adjust, adding more sea salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add the parsley and the sausage and stir well. Add the bread crumbs, stir in and then add the beaten eggs. Stir well. Pack into a casserole. Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes in a deep dish, less in the 9-by-13.

4. Uncover and continue baking another 15 minutes. When you peek into the center, it should look set. Your kitchen thermometer will read about 170 degrees.

** Note: Shred sausage in the food processor. You can substitute party-time links or sausage cooked in patties and crumbled. You can make this vegetarian by leaving out the sausage, but add pepper to make up for the spicy sausage.

Serving Suggestions

This casserole makes a one-course meal or can be used as a side dish or even to stuff a chicken, turkey or a thick pork chop. It makes a delicious alternative to the traditional dressing we love in holiday meals. For a grand buffet dinner party, my daughter bakes a double batch of this and keeps it warm in a crock pot set on low.

Another little trick that worked:  To get as much done ahead as possible, I lined regular bread loaf pans with plastic wrap, packed in the finished eggplant casserole and froze them. Then, after they were frozen, I pulled the casserole “loaves” out of the pan and put each into freezer bags for freezer storage. Come party day, the frozen casseroles are unwrapped, dropped back into the loaf pans and baked.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Luckily I live in an area that grows lots and lots of apple varieties. I don’t have any apple trees myself, but always have a plethora of options at the Farmer’s Market. And if I am willing to purchase apples with scars and a few bruises I can get them for around fifty cents per pound.

It’s hard to turn down this great offer, so I often go home with 25 pounds of apples. Then reality sets in: “I have to process all these apples!”

Over the years, I have dried apples, made applesauce, cooked with apples – a lot – and even canned the occasional jar of apple-plum jelly. But this year I solved the too many apples problem once and for all. I made Boiled Apple-Pear Syrup.

What Is Boiled Apple-Pear Syrup?

As a cookbook author, I spend a fair amount of time researching new ingredients. One ingredient that keeps popping up lately is boiled apple cider. Boiled apple cider is exactly what it sounds like: apple cider boiled down to a syrup-like consistency. It is an old-fashioned sweetener much like molasses or honey that is experiencing a revived popularity.

Boiled apple-pear syrup is similar, but not quite the same. When making boiled apple-pear syrup the fruit is cooked first, then pressed, then the juice is boiled down to a syrup. Unlike homemade apricot syrup or rose syrup, no sugar is added to boiled apple-pear syrup. All of the sweetness comes from the fruits’ natural sugars.

According to Linda Ziedrich, whose recipe for Sirop de Liege inspired this version, the apple-pear syrup is a traditional preserve in Belgium. There it is, served over soft cheese and bread. You can find Ms. Ziedrich’s original recipe in her very excellent The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves.

What Does Apple-Pear Syrup Taste Like?

Have you ever had apple cider directly from the cider press? Cider that hasn’t been pasteurized or filtered?

Boiled apple-pear syrup tastes like the best cider you ever had only sweeter. But it doesn’t have the cloying sweetness of sugar-added syrups, plus the pears give the syrup an earthy flavor base. I could eat it by the spoonful except that it is too precious! Even if you do buy apples 25 pounds at a time.

Where To Use Boiled Apple-Pear Syrup

Boiled Apple-Pear Syrup can be used anywhere you would use molasses, honey, or boiled apple cider.

• Glaze for donuts or baked ham
• Added to homemade applesauce or apple pie
• Substituted for molasses in fruitcake
• Added to sugar cookies
• Served over pancakes or pork chops
• Drizzled over Apple-Pear Crisp

How To Make Boiled Apple-Pear Syrup


• 4 lbs. apples, any variety or a combination
• 4 lbs. pears, any variety or a combination


1. Wash but do not peel or core the fruit. Cut it into quarters.

2. Place all the fruit in a large slow cooker. Cook on low overnight or at least 10 hours.

3. Drain and press the fruit. I did this in batches using a cheesecloth lined colander over a large bowl.

4. Pour the juice into a medium sized saucepan. Boil gently, stirring occasionally until syrup is dark and thick, 20 to 40 minutes.

5. Pour syrup into a clean jar. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Syrup should keep for up to 3 months, if you can refrain from using it all before then!

Yield about 1 pint

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Dehydrated Blueberries' Many Uses

Most people think of pancakes, muffins, and oatmeal when they think of blueberries. We do, too, but we also use them in smoothies, as flavoring in frosting, and as snacks. Blueberries dry harder than a raisin but they still make excellent tasty snacks.

Sometimes we order blueberries in 10-lb boxes from a local food co-op, but most of the blueberries we dry are a wild berry that are locally called huckleberries. In other parts of the country, a huckleberry is more like a blackberry or black raspberry, but what they call huckleberries in Northwest Montana are actually a blueberry. We go up on the mountains around us and pick three to nine gallons of them every summer. Some of them are canned, but a lot of them are dried.

If you have picked wild berries you'll need to clean them first. Bits of leaves and sticks and sometimes bugs have to be picked out. Whether you buy or pick the berries you should wash them before preserving them. I pour water over them in a strainer basket and work the berries around with my fingers to make sure they're all washed.

Use an Electric Dehydrator or Air-Dry Blueberries

Spread them on dryer screens or racks. Be sure not to crowd them too much so the air can circulate around them, and the moisture has room to escape. If you're using an electric dehydrator with a temperature control, set it at 135 degrees F. If your dehydrator doesn't have a temperature control, you may want to rotate the racks and watch for over-drying (if the dehydrator seems on the hot side). I once had some blueberries start to turn black and crisp on the bottom rack in this type of a dehydrator.

Blueberries can be air-dryed on screens if you live in a dry climate. Spread them on the screens and set them out of the way where they won't be bumped. Check them several times a day and stir them around gently with your fingers for faster drying, and to make sure none are spoiling.

A gas oven with a pilot light can be used for drying blueberries as well. The heat from a pilot light is warm and dry and provides a good environment for dehydrating. I like to drape a dish towel over the oven door, hanging over both sides of the door. This helps wick the moisture out of the oven and it's also a reminder to me that I have something in the oven, and I don't turn the oven on to bake something else and destroy the berries.

Whichever way you dry them, blueberries can take 12 to 20 hours to dry. Check through them when you think they're done. There will be the occasional 'gummy' one, sort of like a blueberry-raisin. Separate those out and use them right away or put them in the refrigerator. If all the rest are dried into firm blue balls, the gummy ones are as done as they're going to get. I don't know why some just simply don't fully dry. I've put those gummy ones back in the dehydrator for another day and they don't dry.


Store Dehydrated Blueberries Properly for Longest Shelf Life

After the berries are thoroughly dehydrated and have cooled to room temperature, pack them into an air-tight container. I prefer glass since they are impermeable and glass doesn't react with the acids in the blueberries. Some metals can cause flavor changes in the berries. It's okay to use plastic bags or bottles for short-term storage of dehydrated blueberries, but if you're going to store them for longer periods, I recommend vacuum sealing them in the proper bags, or glass jars with air-tight lids. Some vacuum sealers have a jar attachment, which could be used to seal the jar even further.

Regardless of the container you use, storing them in a cool, dark place will give them the longest shelf life. Daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations can affect storage life, so the more steady you can keep the temperature, the longer your dehydrated foods will keep. I've put jars of dehydrated blueberries in paper bags and stored them under a bed, and kept one jar in the kitchen on a bottom cupboard shelf for handy use.

Rehydrate dried blueberries in luke-warm water for 15 minutes to half an hour. I start mine soaking before I mix up the pancake batter, muffin batter, or pie crust. The berries are re-hydrated by the time I'm ready to add them. Drain them well, and pat dry with a towel or paper towel if necessary.

Enjoy these wonderful, flavorful dehydrated berries all year round!

More information and pictures are available at Susan’s blog. This blog is a companion to several of her published books and centers around food preserving and food storage. Click here to browse her books.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Click here to read more from Jo Ann, including the rest of the Unusual Fruits Series.

Many years ago, when we lived in Vermont and were learning about preserving all the bounty from our garden and from the wild, we discovered American High Bush Cranberries along a dusty back country road. The beautiful translucent round fruits hung in clusters from a thicket of bushes and in no time we harvested a good quantity to turn into jelly.

Living on a shoestring, we were eager to explore all the possibilities of free food for our growing family. We had rented a farmhouse on a hill for $10 a month with no electricity, with rough upland pastures, a small woodlot, and a large enough garden area for our needs. It was ideal for our situation (not enough money to buy our own land) but there was no fruit, cultivated or wild, on this farm, so finding High Bush Cranberries was a real bonus for us.

We were very lucky that what we picked were the fruits of the true American species, Viburnum trilobum, also known as V. opulus var. americanum and V. edulis. Had it been the European species, V. opulus, we would have been very disappointed in our find, especially after having gone to the trouble of processing those lovely red fruits (called drupes) into jelly. Beautiful, yes, but bitter beyond bitter, as we found out to our dismay years later when we were not so lucky in picking the fruit from the wild!

This happened when, after living for 30 years on Cape Breton Island on a self-reliant back country farm where we raised our own tree fruits and berries, it was time to retire and we moved back to the States to New York’s Champlain Valley. We returned to foraging for fruit, and as in Vermont, we discovered thickets of High Bush Cranberries along a dusty back road. So of course we picked them and made jelly, looking forward to putting away a winter supply as we had done in the past. Only this time around we were not so lucky. The beautiful cranberry-colored jelly, many jars of it, was inedible!

What went wrong? Perhaps others have done the same thing. Here’s some pointers to keep you on the right track, whether you pick the fruit from the wild or from your own planting.

A Description of High Bush Cranberries

The two species are very similar in appearance, both growing in thickets on bushes that grow from 18 to 15 feet tall and spread nearly as wide with arching stems, a rounded shape, and large, lobed maple-like foliage. Flowers appear in early summer in showy white, flat-topped clusters, 2-3 inches across. Similar to the flowers of other Viburnum species, the smaller inner flowers are fertile, surrounded by larger, sterile ones.

Both the American and European species are self-fertile, meaning that if you grow them in your garden, you only need one plant of a single species or cultivar to produce fruit. The berries are 3/8 inches in diameter and very distinctive in the landscape, hanging in translucent red clusters. They remain on the bushes well into the winter, perhaps not sought by birds because of their astringency and large, flat seeds, until all other sources are exhausted.


Pruned to a small tree, ‘Bailey Compact’ American High Bush Cranberry featured in my bank garden

The native species grows from British Columbia east to Newfoundland, south to Washington State and east to northern Virginia, and throughout New England. The European species, originally brought into this country for ornamental landscaping, has become naturalized in Maine and in New York State as far as I know, and perhaps other places as well. It was the importation of this species that introduced the dreaded Viburnum leaf beetle to the U.S., first discovered in southern Canada, where it’s naturalized as well.

Both types are suitable to grow for their ornamental flowers and fruits. Superior native American cultivars with less astringent fruits have been developed, so these are a good choice for the edible landscape. They also can be planted as a screen hedge. Look for ‘Wentworth,’ ‘Andrews,’ ‘Hahs,’ ‘Phillips,’ and ‘Bailey Compact.’ This last cultivar grows up to 8 feet and can be trimmed into a small, elegant tree. I grow it as the central feature in a former waste area (a bank with an old gravel pile).

How to Tell the Difference Between the Species Before You Pick Them

Even if you order the native species and cultivars, it’s best to have a sure-fire plan to tell the difference between the American and European types, because nurseries may unknowingly sell the European species for the American one. Note that the American species may be offered under its older name, Viburnum trilobum.

Here’s the simple, no-fail test: Before you pick the fruit, check the shape of the plant’s petiolar glands. Translate: these are the rounded glands that grow at the base of the leaf’s stem (petiole). There is no mistaking that in the American High Bush Cranberry these are raised and rounded or convex. On the European species these glands are concave.

American High-Bush Cranberry Jelly Recipe

Since berries are very high in natural pectin, there is no need to use commercial pectin for a firm set. For best flavor, pick a mix of ripe and slightly underripe fruit.


• 4 cups extracted juice
• 3 cups sugar


1. Wash fruit, just cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Wild fruit gives off a musty odor, less or not present in cultivars.

2. Drain cooked fruit overnight in a jelly bag contrived from several layers of cheesecloth.

3. Measure fruit, pour into a wide-mouth1-gallon stainless steel pot, bring to a boil and stir in sugar.

4. Bring back to a rolling boil and boil hard for about 7 or 8 minutes (toss in a small piece of butter to subside mixture) until a small amount slightly wrinkles when you blow on it to cool, or when it slides of the spoon instead of dripping off.

5. Pour into scalded jelly jars that can be sealed tight with canning jar lids with rings.

For other unusual fruits see my book, Jams, Jellies, and Sweet Preserves, available at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS online bookstore.

Jo Ann Gardner is a noted plantswoman, lecturer and author of several books on old-fashioned fruits, herbs, the cottage garden, and most recently, Seeds of Transcendence: Understanding the Hebrew Bible Through Plants. She and her husband live in the Adirondacks where they maintain poultry flocks and extensive gardens.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.