Harvesting and Preservation of Vegetables

Express News GARDENING, Etc.
Sunday, September 21, 2003

By Lynn Rawe

Vegetables are a vital part of any healthy diet. Growing them is rewarding and self-satisfying. Nothing tastes better than fresh veggies from your own garden, but we all could use a little help with harvesting and preserving methods. This week’s article from Texas Cooperative Extension offers you some helpful tips in enjoying your fall bounty.

As a child, I spent my summers with my grandparents in East Texas. They were self-sufficient farmers, relying on no one. I remember many hours in the kitchen canning and freezing fruits, jams, jellies and vegetables. There was always food for this very large family with ten children.
Canning and freezing food is a great way to extend ones budget.

Did you know that only canning jars should be used when canning foods because of the high temperatures needed? Many other types of jars, like used mayonnaise jars, can break under high temperatures or high pressure. Did you know that the pH of food determines the temperature needs for processing? Foods with low acidity require a higher temperature when processing than foods with a high acid content. There is a video and book series called So Easy to Preserve that provides detailed information about the different methods of canning and answers many of these questions. The So Easy To Preserve videos and book will provide guidelines for canning techniques and can be ordered from: Agriculture Business Office, 203 Conner Hall, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7506, (706) 542-8999.

Learning the correct way to can or freeze foods will prevent potential problems, such as botulism and other micro-organisms that can cause food to spoil. Following exact procedures in processing foods is very important to avoid potential food-borne illnesses. Check with Extension or the Expanded Nutrition Program office at (210) 732-9300. Texas Cooperative Extension has several publications that contains additional information on home food preservation. You may request “Freezing Fruits and Vegetables,” L-2215, “Home Canning Fruits and Tomatoes,”
L-2216, or “Home Canning Vegetables,” L-2217.

The following cancer fighting vegetables can be served long after harvest with these helpful hints:

Greens: Collards, beet greens, chard, kale, mustard greens, spinach and turnip greens should be used within 3 days of harvesting.
• Choose young, tender leaves free of insects and defects.
• Avoid fibrous, yellow-green or wilted leaves.
• Wash leaves carefully to remove sand and grit.
• Blanching times vary according to different types of greens.
• Use ice cold water before packing.
• Provide 1 inch of headspace.

Green beans: Should be used within 3 to 5 days of harvesting.
• Choose bright green, slender, smooth, crisp beans.
• Avoid flabby or wilted, blemished beans.
• Avoid big seed. They will be tough.
• Cut beans into 2-4 inch lengths.
• Blanch for 3 minutes.
• Place in cold water before packing.
• Provide one-half inch of headspace.

Winter Squash: Acorn, Buttercup, Butternut, and Hubbard can be stored for several months in a cool, dry place.
• Choose firm, well shaped squash that are heavy for their size.
• Choose squash without sunken or moldy spots.
• Avoid squash with punctures or cuts on the skin.
• Cut into small pieces.
• Cook until soft and mash the pulp.
• Cool over ice.
• Provide one-half inch of headspace.

Broccoli: Should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and best used within 3 to 5 days.
• Choose compact, firm clusters that are dark green.
• Avoid clusters that are yellowish in color.
• Remove the tough, outer layer on the stems before freezing.
• Broccoli can be blanched or steamed before freezing.
• Cold water rinse before freezing.
• Provide 1 inch of headspace.

Carrots: Remove the tops of carrots and trim right after harvesting. Store in plastic bags or wrap for 2 to3 weeks in the refrigerator.
• Choose firm, smooth, bright orange carrots.
• Wash throughly to remove soil.
• Small carrots can be left whole. Large ones should be sliced or diced.
• Use cold water rinse after blanching.
• Provide 1 inch of headspace.

Cauliflower: Should be washed and stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and used within one week.
• Choose a clean, white head.
• Avoid heads with spots or bruises.
• Separate into flowerlets or one inch pieces.
• Soak in a mixture of 4 teaspoons of pickling salt to 1 gallon of water for one-half hour.
• Drain.
• Blanch for 3 minutes.
• Cool in ice water and drain again.

Canning and freezing vegetables is a wonderful family activity. Spending this time with your children or grandchildren will form memories they will never forget.

This article was written by Lynn Rawe, County Extension Agent-Horticulture with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County. For more information, please call 210 / 467-6575.


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