Autumn is the perfect time to stock up on fruits and vegetables, whether you’re harvesting from your own garden or buying locally. But if you don’t have a way to preserve your bounty, that food could end up being wasted. To make the most of the food you love, you’ll want to preserve the produce you can’t eat right away – to extend its shelf life and prevent spoilage. Here’s some techniques to consider:
Food Waste = Money Waste
Throwing away spoiled or uneaten food is hard on the environment and your wallet. With over half of food waste coming from ingredients that go straight into the garbage without being eaten, making sure you use all the food you buy (or grow) is an efficient and cost-effective way to have a positive impact on food waste. Generally speaking, this is a strong argument for only buying enough to meet your immediate needs.
Bulking Up for Tasty Savings
However, buying in bulk at this time of year can add up to savings. And home gardeners know that most fruits and vegetables ripen within a fairly short time during summer and early autumn. So, safe and effective long-term storage options are an important tool for reducing the risk of food being wasted before we have a chance to enjoy it. These three time-tested methods of preserving food can help you to reduce or eliminate food waste in your home. The added benefit of inexpensive, healthy, and nutritious fruits and vegetables during the winter is your reward for loving food and hating waste!
Done properly, canning is a safe way to preserve food for a long time. But, depending on the item, you need to know whether or not you should be using a pressure cooker – to ensure your canned goods won’t spoil. With foods that are high in sugar or acid – such as jams, jellies, or tomatoes (with added lemon juice or vinegar), a ‘water bath’ canner is usually sufficient. The acid and/or sugar content will help prevent the growth of microbes. If you’re nervous about the water bath technique, or want to can low acid foods such as carrots, corn, and many other vegetables, you need higher temperatures and pressure to ensure food safety. For those food items, a pressure cooker is the way to go. Visit this Government of Canada website for additional information on safe canning: Home Canning Safety
Freezing is another way to make your autumn harvest last into the winter months. It’s simple and easy, but frozen foods won’t last quite as long as their canned counterparts and are liable to lose some of their flavour and texture over time. On the up side, almost any fruit or vegetable can be frozen and blanching vegetables before they are frozen will help preserve colour and slow the inevitable loss of some nutrients. The Love Food Hate Waste website has a list of items that can be frozen and preserved.
Another way to preserve food is through dehydration. Most children (and plenty of grown-ups) love sweet treats such as dehydrated apples and pears, but tree fruits aren’t the only kind of food suitable for drying and preserving. Many vegetables are suitable for drying and storage, from the well-known, obvious examples such as tomatoes (sun-dried or in a dehydrator), peas, and beans – to lesser known candidates such as cauliflower and celery. You can save a bit of money using your oven on its lowest setting, or buy a purpose-made food dehydrator. Whichever method you choose, a temperature of between 45 – 60 degrees Celsius will help prevent the loss of nutrients while getting the job done in a reasonable amount of time.
Taking a proactive approach to food waste doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the benefits of buying seasonal produce in bulk. Whether you choose to can, freeze, or dry; year-round access to local fruits and vegetables, without generating excess food waste, is possible. Give it a try!
For more information, including menus, recipes, food storage tips, and facts
about shelf life and best before dates, visit the Love Food – Hate Waste website:
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