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After the Harvest

Raise your hand if you’re the type of gardener – or if you know the type of gardener – who does his or her part to grow enough vegetables to feed the country’s armed forces? If you have ever dropped off “a dozen tomatoes or so” in a plastic garbage bag to at least three people, this article is for you. These gardeners are the growing, nurturing type. They grow because they must, and it’s obvious when the time comes to collect the harvest. Many people don’t know the options available to them to help make their harvest last.

Proper storage actually begins with the harvest and knowing what the right time is to bring in a crop. Some vegetables are not as crucial, while others have to be picked at just the right time. This is a matter of knowing your crop. If you don’t know, check the Internet, books, or a gardening neighbor. Don’t be afraid to ask and make sure that you are right.

Once you bring in boxes, bags, and buckets of vegetables, setting them on any flat surface available in the house, you need to check your storage options. One option is the root cellar – or any other cool, dry, and dark environment. Any lightless room between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit should work if the humidity is low (but not dry). Simply place your vegetables on the shelves – not on the floor – and store for the winter.

With any preservation method – including the root cellar – it is important to get rid of any rot, disease, decay, or even bruising right away. These things spread to the other vegetables and can easily ruin a great deal of work

Once you have ensured you only have the freshest of vegetables, it’s time to look at some more advanced preservation methods.

The first way to preserve your food is to can it. Canning is a process in which you place your food in a thick jar, heating it high enough to kill the bacteria that causes food to spoil. You also force the extra air out of the jar – this forms a vacuum seal when the jar cools, keeping the bacteria from growing again. Food can keep for years with this method, letting you enjoy the your labors long after the harvest.

Another way to preserve food is to dehydrate it. Dehydrating, as the name suggests, is a process to remove the water from food. This is most often done with beef jerky, but it can be done with fruits and vegetables as well. You can make cucumber chips for a tasty snack during the winter. The easiest way to dehydrate food is with … of all things … a dehydrator. Using low temperatures and air circulation a dehydrator can quickly and safely remove the moisture from food leaving it fresh for months to come.

No matter what method you choose to preserve your harvest, it is rewarding to enjoy your home-grown food months and years after your harvested it. You get to enjoy the fresh taste, the low coast, and the subtle satisfaction that you did not have to go to the grocery store in that blizzard.

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More Gardening Articles:
A Flower for all Seasons
A Hues Improvement
After the Harvest
Annuals versus Perennials
Can It - Storing the Harvest
Collecting and Storing the Harvest
Color Your Personality Blue
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Dehydrating the Harvest
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