Gardening Tip: How to Preserve Food from Home

As you prepare and tend your garden, it’s important to keep in mind how you will use all the food you’ll harvest. Just like the people Convoy of Hope trains through our Agriculture program, you likely won’t be able to use everything you grow before it goes bad. Here are some tips and tricks to preserve your food, allowing you to enjoy the fruits of your labor for longer.

 

Dehydrate
Dehydrating can be an easy and cheap way of making the food from your garden last longer. To do this, you must:

  • Clean and cut your fruits and vegetables into small pieces.
  • Lay them out in the bottom of an open-top container.
  • Cover the container with food plastic wrap.
  • Place it outside in the sun until most of the moisture has evaporated. (This could take a couple of days, depending on the amount of sunlight available.)

When finished, condition your fruits and vegetables to reduce the chance of them spoiling or growing mold. To do this, place your dried fruits and vegetables in large containers by filling them up two-thirds of the way. Cover and store them in a warm, dry, and well-ventilated area for four to 10 days. If you still see moisture, put the fruit or veggies back out to dry for a bit longer and start the conditioning process again. Once this is done, your dried fruits and vegetables should last for six months to a year.

Make Fruit Leather
Turning your fresh fruit into fruit leather will lengthen its lifespan from a matter of days to months. In fact, if you place fruit leather in the freezer, it can retain its quality and consumption safety for up to a year. To do this:

  • Clean and cut your fruits and vegetables into small pieces.
  • Place them in boiling water, cover them, and let them steam — either for 15 to 20 minutes or until the fruit is soft and the mixture is at 160°F.
  • You can also cook the fruit mixture in a microwave. Place the cut fruit in a glass casserole pan, cover it, and microwave it on full power for 6 to 8 minutes for every two cups of fruit. Stir the mixture every 2 minutes.
  • Use a blender to blend the cooked fruit with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for every 2 cups of fruit. This protects the color and destroys bacteria during the drying process.
  • For taste, you can add 1 or 2 tablespoons of sweetener like sugar or honey, 1⁄4 teaspoon of cinnamon, or a dash of nutmeg for every 2 cups of the mixture.
  • Spray a tray with vegetable spray or line it with plastic wrap to prevent the leather from sticking.
  • Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the tray and make it 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick.
  • Preheat your oven to 140°F and place the trays inside. Leave the oven cracked a few inches and let the mixture dry. It should take four to 10 hours.
  • You will know it’s fully dry when it is translucent, slightly sticky, and easily peelable from the tray.

Want to take your food preservation to the next level? Try canning, pickling, or making jam and jelly from the food in your garden. Learn more about how to do these things or for more ways to preserve food from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

To learn more about how Convoy of Hope trains people all over the world in Agriculture, click here.

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