Growing a garden is a three part opera that is true to my mission: Grow, Maintain, Sustain, and Explain. This post will outline how to grow, maintain, and sustain in an urban garden.

  1. The growing part is where you prepare the soil, plan the planting and set the seeds.
  2. To maintain you must nurture seedlings, transfer the seedlings, water the seedlings and grow the plants.
  3. To sustain the garden you have to harvest that which you have worked so hard to nourish and protect and you have to have a strategy for preserving all that you can.
  4. Let me explain.
Harvesting kale at the end of the season. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello

This lovely fall day was spent harvesting butternut squash, radishes, Fuego tomatoes, Golden beets, peppers, turnip greens (just some of the greens, not the turnips, not yet) and kale. This is a lot of food material to bring in and over the past few years I have developed some winning strategies for harvesting and preserving and harvesting a variety of food.

Peppers/Tomatoes

  • The peppers or tomatoes either get cooked, roasted or sliced and then vacuum packed.
  • I have also canned them, but I prefer pickling.
  • Then they are frozen or if canned, stored in the dry pantry.

Radishes/Tomatoes/Peppers (Dry Pickle)

  • Cut away radish greens, set aside to make radish pesto (super yummy!).
  • Clean radishes, tomatoes, peppers, and rinse thoroughly.
  • Choose to eat fresh or pickle them.
  • Chop vegetable into slices.
  • Lightly steam Blanche the vegetables for a few minutes.
  • Dry and weigh the vegetables separately.
  • Divide the vegetable weight by 4.
  • This is how much pickling salt you must add.
    • Do NOT add less! Less will allow bacteria to thrive.
    • More is useless and just wastes salt.
  • Spread salt over sliced or diced vegetables evenly on a bakers sheet.
  • Pour EVERYTHING into a sterile canning jar.
  • Using a wooden spoon or pummel gently pack vegetables down just until juices emerge. DO NOT CRUSH.
  • There should be 2cm (1”) fluid above vegetables, about 2/3 full large jar.
  • Now fill a sterile balloon (wipe or dip the balloon in alcohol) with 25% salt and 75% water until it is just a tad larger than the opening of the mason jar.
  • Tie the balloon mouth with a removable twist tie. You may have to add a bit more water over 4 weeks as vegetables will shrink slightly.
  • Push the balloon tightly into the jar mouth for a tight seal.
  • Wipe jar mouth with alcohol to clean and sterilize.
  • Cover and close lightly with a sterile lid.
  • You will leave this on a shelf for four weeks, checking on it periodically, watching for sliming – you don’t want that – and refilling balloon to maintain a tight fit to keep pressing vegetables down.
  • After four weeks, resterilize the jar mouth, fit it with a sterile canning lid.
  • Give it a canning bath to seal and store appropriately.
  • This works with ALL vegetables.
  • If you would prefer to skip the pickling/fermenting, just pack the salted vegetables into a vacuum sealed back and freeze.

Butternut Squash

  • Make sure squash flesh and rind are not damaged.
  • Coat the stump with oil to seal.
  • Store them upright in an open bushel basket in the cellar.
  • it helps preservation if your cellar has a dehumidifier.

Beets

  • Beets like potatoes are stored in burlap bags filled with peat moss.
  • They last the winter that way.

Greens

That leaves the greens. Each green is unique, but they all preserve similarly.

Turnip Greens, Beet Greens, and Kale

  • All greens get a thorough rinse.
  • The stems are cut out and removed.
  • Stems are chopped fine and frozen for adding flavor or fed to the rabbits, chickens, and ducks.
  • Steam over water in a colander until they brighten. Vacuum  pack and freeze for use later.

Happy Harvesting! If I left something out, or you have an alternative idea, share it here. In stage 4 of the house remodel, we will be adding a climate controlled walk in freezer/storage room. But for now, it’s all 1860 up in here.

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