Enjoy Fresh Local Food: Seasonal Storage

Enjoy fresh, local food all year long. A guide to simple seasonal storage, such as canning, freezing, dehydrating and more.

| August/September 2007

  • The Raleigh Farmers Market is one of five operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
    The Raleigh Farmers Market is one of five operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
    Photo by William D. Adams
  • When bringing winter squash home from a farmers market, cradle them in towels to avoid accidental nicks or bruises.
    When bringing winter squash home from a farmers market, cradle them in towels to avoid accidental nicks or bruises.
    Photo by Walter Chandoha
  • Pickles, acidic tomatoes and sweetened chutneys or fruit preserves have a pH level below 4.5 that retards bacterial growth, so they can be canned in a large water bath canner. A water bath canner is nothing more than a large pot with a metal tray or rack that holds glass jars at least a half inch off the bottom.
    Pickles, acidic tomatoes and sweetened chutneys or fruit preserves have a pH level below 4.5 that retards bacterial growth, so they can be canned in a large water bath canner. A water bath canner is nothing more than a large pot with a metal tray or rack that holds glass jars at least a half inch off the bottom.
    Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • You will need a pressure canner to preserve foods with a pH level above 4.5, because higher temperatures are required to kill bacteria in non-acidic foods.
    You will need a pressure canner to preserve foods with a pH level above 4.5, because higher temperatures are required to kill bacteria in non-acidic foods.
    Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • Freezing is often the best way to preserve the flavors and textures of delicate vegetables, such as peppers and eggplant.
    Freezing is often the best way to preserve the flavors and textures of delicate vegetables, such as peppers and eggplant.
    Photo by Walter Chandoha
  • Tomatoes with added herbs can be canned in a water bath canner, but use a pressure canner when including zucchini, okra or other low-acid vegetables.
    Tomatoes with added herbs can be canned in a water bath canner, but use a pressure canner when including zucchini, okra or other low-acid vegetables.
    Photo by Walter Chandoha
  • Preserve foods to enjoy the bounty of the harvest year-round.
    Preserve foods to enjoy the bounty of the harvest year-round.
    Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • Preserving locally grown foods helps strengthen your local economy, supports more sustainable food production and brings you a step closer to a more self-sufficient life.
    Preserving locally grown foods helps strengthen your local economy, supports more sustainable food production and brings you a step closer to a more self-sufficient life.
    Photo by William D. Adams

  • The Raleigh Farmers Market is one of five operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
  • When bringing winter squash home from a farmers market, cradle them in towels to avoid accidental nicks or bruises.
  • Pickles, acidic tomatoes and sweetened chutneys or fruit preserves have a pH level below 4.5 that retards bacterial growth, so they can be canned in a large water bath canner. A water bath canner is nothing more than a large pot with a metal tray or rack that holds glass jars at least a half inch off the bottom.
  • You will need a pressure canner to preserve foods with a pH level above 4.5, because higher temperatures are required to kill bacteria in non-acidic foods.
  • Freezing is often the best way to preserve the flavors and textures of delicate vegetables, such as peppers and eggplant.
  • Tomatoes with added herbs can be canned in a water bath canner, but use a pressure canner when including zucchini, okra or other low-acid vegetables.
  • Preserve foods to enjoy the bounty of the harvest year-round.
  • Preserving locally grown foods helps strengthen your local economy, supports more sustainable food production and brings you a step closer to a more self-sufficient life.

This guide to fresh, local food and seasonal storage will provide all you need to know about preserving, canning, freezing, dehydrating and more.

Enjoy Fresh Local Food: Seasonal Storage

Can you name three crops that will keep easily for months in a cool closet? (Try winter squash, sweet potatoes and garlic.) Or how about vegetables that stay fresh until well after Christmas when stashed in the refrigerator, or even just a cooler in your unheated garage? (We recommend carrots, beets and potatoes.)

Buying local produce and “putting it by” (or “putting it up,” depending on your region) is a great way to support local farmers and give your family fresher, better-tasting organic food. Every bite you take — today or months from now — helps strengthen your local economy, supports more sustainable food production and brings you a step closer to a more self-sufficient life.

Plus, buying local food in bulk often can save you money on grocery bills. And as the examples above indicate, it can be as easy as going to the farmers market when your favorite fruits and veggies are in season, and learning which conditions or techniques are best for storing each crop. Whether you grow your own garden or buy produce from local growers, the following charts will help you eat more sustainably all year long.



To simplify home food storage, we’ve divided crops by preservation methods, starting with the ones that require the least time, trouble and energy. Even when canned or frozen, home-stored foods save huge amounts of energy in reduced processing, packaging, transportation and storage costs. Freezing is the most energy-intensive method of home food preservation, but you still save energy when you freeze locally grown food. Buy seasonal produce directly from growers at farmers markets or farm stands, then choose preservation methods that fit your cooking habits and time constraints, because most foods can be preserved in more than one way. 


If you need more information than what’s shown in the following charts, check out these online resources:

Kes
9/2/2013 9:56:29 AM

The PDF charts linked in the article are returning 404s. I'd really like to look at them.


Armand
9/3/2008 10:17:19 PM

great article


Barbara Pleasant_3
9/2/2008 7:44:25 AM

Good question, Jason. Most modern homes were not built with food storage in mind, so you have to figure out ways to make it work. If you have a small amount of something that needs high humidity, keeping it in enclosed containers (old coolers, waxed boxes, etc) is often the best way. Keep in mind that veggies give off moisture, so you don't have to do all of the humidity managing yourself. If you have a basement room that seems promising, pans of gravel (like plastic cat litter pans) placed here and there which can be lightly watered with a watering can will go a long way toward raising humidity levels. To consider many other options, I recommend looking at the Underground Storage chapter in Stocking Up, a Rodale book that's been around for 30 years. Many methods are reviewed, from root cellars to soil pits, in only 20 pages. Most libraries have the book, or you can buy a copy so you'll always have it.







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