by Melissa K. Norris
One of my favorite things about growing a vegetable garden is being able to enjoy its fruits long after the first frost. While cold frames and a greenhouse can help in these areas, they’re not what I’m referring to.
I’m talking about eating our vegetable and fruit crops all year long due to home preservation. We canned over 200 jars of food from our garden this year. I froze pumpkin and grated zucchini for breads and sauces. More zucchini was dehydrated to toss into casseroles and soups. We dried beans for seed and eating. I have two large burlap sacks full of heirloom potatoes, onions, and four braids of garlic hanging in my kitchen.
Does this sound like something you’d like to do? Perfect, because you can. We plant a garden with preservation in mind and now is the best time to get started.
A preserver’s garden is full of vegetables that lend well to preservation. Some foods I prefer canned, others frozen, some dehydrated, and still others are excellent root cellar type crops, meaning they don’t require anything other than a cool dry place.
If you don’t already seed save, you’ll want to get your order in for heirloom seed soon. One of our favorite places with a large selection is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at ww.rareseeds.com.
Why heirloom seeds? Because you can save the seed every year, they’re not GMO or hybridized, and there’s more variety. Click here for more on why we do an all heirloom garden or to learn more about seed saving.
Here’s our personal favorite lists for which vegetables to plant for preserving by method. You’ll see some vegetables in more than one list, so your preservation method will be based on personal preference and how much freezer space you have.
Vegetables for canning:
- Green beans
Vegetables for freezing:
- Butternut squash
- Zucchini and other summer squash
- Pumpkin-puree form
Vegetables for root cellaring:
- Butternut squash
- Acorn squash
- Most varieties of winter squash
- Apples (one of the few fruits that do well and have a long shelf life)
Vegetables for dehydrating:
- Onions for garlic powder
- Garlic for garlic powder
- Herbs (Dehydrated herbs are excellent for cooking and teas, but it’s impossible to grow them all. Napiers has a great selection of medicinal herbs like echinacea, herbal teas, and tinctures.)
The most important aspect of planning what to plant in your garden with preserving in mind is to identify which foods you and your family eat on a consistent basis. If you don’t like beets, then don’t plant a third of your garden in them and waste the time preserving them.
I use these three points to decide if I should plant a vegetable:
- Can it be easily preserved?
- Can I purchase it cheaply in season and in large quantities?
- Do we eat a fair amount of it?
What plants are you putting in this year? Do you already preserve your harvest? Which preserving methods do you use?
Melissa K. Norris is an author, speaker, and radio host helping readers implement the best of the pioneer lifestyle into their modern ones. She loves getting her hands dirty while heirloom gardening, preserving the harvest, and chasing after her critters, two and four legged alike, on her family’s small ranch in the foothills of the North Cascade mountain range. The article aims to advise and guide readers but do necessarily reflect the opinions of the Thrifty Homesteader. The affiliate links contained within the article are not necessarily endorsed by Thrifty Homesteader.