You have tomatoes and cukes coming out your ears. The neighbors turn running when they see you walking up the sidewalk with your latest harvest bundle in tow. These are signs your urban garden is healthy and thriving, but perhaps itâ€™s time to rethink what to do with your excess crop. Use these quick tips for drying, canning and freezing to enjoy the fruits of your labor year-round.
- Dry herbs indoors at room temperature for best results. Leafy herbs, such as parsley, sage and thyme can be tied into bundles and hung upside-down to dry. Drying herbs in an oven, a dehydrator or even in the sun can deplete their colors and flavors.
- When drying fruits and tomatoes, use a conventional oven at its lowest setting if you donâ€™t have a dehydrator. Arrange fruits on plastic screens or cake-cooling racks to permit air circulation on the bottom of the fruit as well as on the top and sides.
- To prolong the life of dried fruits and herbs, store them in jars with packets of silica gel. (These are packets you often find with your vitamin pills, cameras, electronics and other merchandise that must be kept dry.) They will absorb accumulating moisture and keep your fruits crispy.
- For safe canning at high altitudes, add five minutes to processing times for every 1,000 feet you live above sea level. The higher the elevation, the lower the temperature at which water boils. The extra processing time makes up for the temperature reduction.
- Test canning jar lids to ensure they seal properly. Remove the screw bands from canning jars after the fruit or vegetable contents have cooled. Place the canning jars one at a time in a sauce pan lined with a dish towel and lift them by the lid rims. The lids wonâ€™t come off if the canning jars are properly sealed. If they do come off, the contents will fall into the sauce pot and the dish towel will keep the jar from breaking.
- If canning jars donâ€™t seal properly, empty the fruit or vegetable contents into a pan for reheating, sterilize the canning jars again and repeat the canning process.
- Freeze fruits, vegetables or herbs in thin, flat packages for better stacking, faster freezing and faster thawing.
- You can freeze small packages of herbs and other seasonings without blanching them first.
- To ensure airtight seals, use a damp cloth to wipe the edges of containers before sealing them.
About the Author: Cheryl Morrison gardens and cans at her home in Vermont. In addition to writing, she cooks, knits, crochets, cuts firewood, and does her own home maintenance and repairs.