Gathering and Preserving the Harvest

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Busy time of year in Michigan for gardening – bringing all the vegetables and putting them up. What ever the means you use to preserve your harvest – drying, canning, or freezing your garden vegetables. It’s time to get it done. The garden has helped so much over the years making our grocery dollar last longer while providing us with healthy vegetables in the winter.

Canning, as a means of preserving, has been around for a long time. As city kids we loved going to Arkansas to visit my grandparents in the country and I remember Grandma’s big vegetable garden. Grandma spent many hours canning all the produce she harvested out of the garden. I remember a story my Mom tells of grandma leaving grandpa in charge of the canner full of peas while she was busy elsewhere. Grandpa forgot about them and the lid blew off leaving grandpa with pea sized burns on over his face and hands. Of course, this was many years ago and since then canners are much more reliable.

So far this year I’ve canned beans, salsa, vegetable soup, strawberry jam, dried shuck beans, and I’ve also dried corn for the first time.

My husband Bat comes from Kentucky, and shuck beans are one of our favorite ways to fix green beans. You can dry shuck beans in a couple of ways – after stringing them and breaking them up you can take needle and thread and go through each bean then hang to dry; or you can try the method we use, which is to spread them out on a sheet and put them in the sun to dry, making sure to bring them in at night so the dew won’t get on them.

You can also dry corn without the use of a dehydrator. After cutting the corn off the cob, spread evenly on a cookie sheet and dry for 12 hours at 150 degrees.

I’m still getting produce out of my garden even though it flooded twice this summer. Yesterday I picked a half bushel of tomatoes, and today I will can quart jars full of vine ripe tomatoes that will be good for chili and soup on a cold Michigan winter’s day.

What my garden has not been able to provide us with we have bought from local farmers. I bought some peaches this last weekend at the peach festival in Romeo, Michigan, and yesterday I bought 50 pounds of unclassified potatoes and a half bushel of yellow delicious apples. Now, what to do with all those apples, there’s … pie filling, applesauce, fried apples…