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Dig Right Minute

Grandma had the right idea when canning and pickling foods from her garden to enjoy later in the year. Make it your own by adding some modern twists to the classic technique.

  • You can’t capture sunshine in a bottle, but you can keep a bit of summer going throughout the year by canning and preserving the bounty of your garden. Over the past few years, those techniques have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts among gardeners and home cooks, who realize the value and flavor of eating what you grow.
  • Canning involves packing fruits or vegetables in a jar and submerging the jar in a pressure canner or water bath for a set time and at a set temperature. Those factors depend on what you’re canning; produce with high acids, like fruits, pickles and tomatoes do well with a water bath technique, while items with low acids, like certain vegetables, should be preserved in a regulated pressure canner.
  • All kinds of vegetables and fruits can be canned, including staples like green beans, beets, tomatoes, peppers carrots and even corn.
  • Invest in good mason jars, bands and lids to get the proper vacuum seal for a safe, effective preservation. Make sure jars are free of any cracks or chips. Other materials include jar lifters, canning racks, stainless steel tongs and timers.
  • Pickling is another way to preserve fresh low-acid veggies like cucumbers, peppers and asparagus by creating a brine from acids like vinegar (try apple cider vinegar) or lemon juice with pickling/canning salt and other ingredients, like sugar, garlic, spices and/or herbs. Again, you must use sterilized jars and hot canning lids before immersing in boiling water. Experts recommend letting flavors develop for a few weeks before eating. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has good tips on pickling at http://www.almanac.com/content/pickling-tips-and-recipes.
  • You can freeze some of your garden crops to preserve them for later use. Frozen tomatoes, for example, are great for things like sauces and soups; tomatoes can be frozen whole, sliced or chopped and with or without skins. Wash tomatoes before freezing, cut off the stem and use freezer bags or other materials designed for freezing. Be sure to squeeze out excess air from the bags, and label the bags with the name of the vegetable and the date it was frozen.
  • For year-round dashes of flavor, freeze herbs from your garden and store in an airtight freezer bag.  You can also pack minced herbs, like basil, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme with water in an ice cube tray. Pop them out when frozen and store in another freezer bag.

Don’t forget to contact JULIE before you dig! Whenever you’re disturbing the ground, especially when planting trees, shrubs, groundcovers or plants, be safe and contact JULIE at 811 or enter your request online using E-Request at www.Illinois1Call.com. It’s free and crucial to avoid hitting underground lines, even in areas where you assume it’s safe to dig.

Dig Right Minute
by Tony Abruscato
Director, Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Sponsored in part by JULIE, Inc. The Chicago Flower & Garden Show presents realistic, as well as DIY solutions to inspire, educate and motivate gardening enthusiasts and newbies alike, all year long.  The show blooms at Navy Pier from March 14 - 17, 2018.