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Growing a Food Garden in the City Preserving Foods

About how to can and preserve your fruits and vegetables grown in your new food garden.

PRESERVING FOODS

No matter what method you use to grow food or where you grow it, you can enjoy the fruits of your labors all year long. Indoor plants are not limited to any particular season. In addition, food grown in the summer can be preserved by several methods. These include canning, freezing, drying, curing, and outdoor storage. Freezing is perhaps the simplest. Foods to be frozen are blanched (briefly plunged in boiling water), then quickly cooled in cold water, then placed in moisture-proof plastic freezing dishes and frozen. They will keep for a long time this way. However, if you use this method, you are dependent on the electric supply and will live in perpetual fear of a power failure. Canning, preserving, and drying allow you to be more self-reliant.

In canning and preserving, fruits and vegetables are prepared according to recipes often using sugar or vinegar as preservatives. Before foods are canned, the spores of potentially harmful bacteria must be killed by cooking at high temperatures. Low-acid foods are more prone to the most dangerous of these bacteria, the one which causes botulism, than are high-acid foods. For this reason, it is safer to can pickled string beans, for example, than string beans in water. Anyone who wishes to try his or her hand at canning should use a good cook-book written expressly for the purpose and should follow all directions meticulously. The later stages of canning preservation, in which the food is placed in sterile jars and sealed, are as important and hazardous as the early ones. But if one is conscientious and careful, canning can be exciting and rewarding.

Drying involves heating foods at temperatures of 150deg to 200deg for 12 or more hours until the moisture is completely removed. Foods will then last for up to 4 months. Drying can be accomplished in the sun in certain areas, or in an oven set at low heat with the door left ajar. Food is set in the sun or in the oven spread out on cloth-covered wood trays. When you wish to use the dried food, simply cook it in water. Unfortunately, many of the vitamins in dried foods are dissipated either in the drying procedure or during storage. Another disadvantage of drying is that it is extremely time-consuming. It does have the advantage of shrinking food so that it may be preferred to canning if storage space is minimal.

When your harvest is over and your food "put by" for winter, one small task remains: preparing your garden for the next year. Simply turn over the dead stems and vines of your plants together with some compost. You will be helping along the natural process by which death nurtures new life. If you are lucky, the next spring you will find familiar-looking plants sprouting out of the ground all by themselves.

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