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You Raised a Garden. Now What?

Growing vegetables or fruits provides a chance to enjoy the outdoors, a learning opportunity for your children and healthful food for your family and friends.
You Raised a Garden. Now What?

Courtesy Bruce Sundeen

- Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist and Associate Professor, Dept. of Health Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Growing vegetables or fruits provides a chance to enjoy the outdoors, a learning opportunity for your children and healthful food for your family and friends.

If you have a bountiful harvest, enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your efforts right away and later in the season. Consider preserving the food by freezing, canning or drying, but be sure to use up-to-date food preservation methods so you can enjoy safe, high-quality food. Food preservation guidelines have changed through time.

How much do you know already about food preservation? Try this quiz.

  1. True or False? Old Church cookbooks have great canning recipes you will want to use.
  2. True or False? As long as you boil the jars of canned vegetables long enough you will  have a safe end product.
  3. True or False? Vegetables, meats and most mixtures of foods should be canned only in a pressure canner.
  4. True or False? You can invent your own salsa recipe and can it as long as you process it in a water-bath canner.
  5. True or False? Acid, such as lemon juice or citric acid, should be added to all tomatoes prior to canning.
  6. True or False? You can expect high-quality food when you freeze foods in plastic containers that previously held whipped topping or margarine.
  7. True or False? Drying fruits, vegetables and fruit leathers can be done safely only in a food dehydrator.


The answers.

  1. False. Old church cookbooks often provide outdated and unsafe canning recipes. U.S. Department of Agriculture canning guidelines underwent a major overhaul in 1994, and in 2006, canning guidelines were reviewed and revised. Follow only current research-tested canning recipes, such as those from USDA/Extension or Ball.
  2. False. Unless you process canned foods properly, you could put yourself at risk for botulism, a potentially fatal form of foodborne illness. Clostridium botulinum spores can grow and produce a toxin in low-acid foods in sealed cans and jars. Boiling jars at 212 degrees will not kill this organism or its spores.
  3. True. The acidity (or pH) of a food determines how foods should be canned. Low-acid foods such as these must be processed in a pressure canner.
  4. False. If you invent your own salsa recipe, you can freeze it. When canning salsa, follow research-tested salsa formulations exactly and measure/weigh ingredients carefully according to the recipe.
  5. True. Tomato varieties vary in the amount of acid they contain depending on variety and growing season. For safety, tomatoes should be canned in a water-bath canner or pressure canner for the recommended amount of time. They also should be acidified with one of the following:
  • Add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart (1 tablespoon per pint)
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart (1/4 teaspoon per pint)
  • False. Using these types of containers can result in freezer burn or dehydration. Freezer burn is a quality issue, not a safety issue. You may not want to eat freezer-burned food because of changes in color, texture and flavor.
  • False. Food also can be safely dehydrated in the oven, and in some cases, in the sun.
  • Learn more about preserving food. You will find current recommendations for freezing fruits and vegetables; preparing dried fruits, vegetables and leathers; and canning jams and jellies, fruits and vegetables, salsa and many other foods at the NDSU Extension nutrition, food safety and health website.

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