Anyone with a backyard garden or a fruit tree is blessed every year with an abundance of produce. It gets ripe all at once, and very few families can manage to use it all. Some people give it away, others throw it away. However, the best use for excess produce is to preserve it by home canning and eat it later, when the fresh foods are in short supply.
Fruits and vegetables preserved at home when they are at the peak of ripeness are much more nutritious than the produce offered in the store. The store produce was picked while unripe and will never reach its peak of flavor or nutritional value. Canning preserves the nutrition so you can enjoy good health and your diet all year round.
An astonishing number of commercial salsas, relishes and sauces have been loaded up with sugar, salt and preservatives. Instead of consuming these unwanted and unneeded ingredients, home produce can easily be converted into sauces and relishes- without the unhealthy additives- and canned for year-round use.
You may seek out the produce labeled as ‘organic’ in the store, but unless you grow your own, you’re never really sure if it is actually pesticide-free. Shopping at the farmer’s market can give you more confidence in how your produce is grown, but farmer’s markets close during the winter. Eugenia Bone says “Preserving in an extension of the values that made you shop in the farmer’s market in the first place.”
Being able to can and store your own produce might be an important skill in case of a natural disaster. Home-canned foods can last for years if the power goes out. If there is some sort of disruption in the current food supply, you can grow food to eat, and continue to eat it in canned form throughout the winter. Even if there is no natural disaster, canning your own produce is so much more economical than buying commercial produce and canned goods.
Home canning has very little environmental impact. You grow the food at home in your composted kitchen waste, can it in your kitchen, and eat it at home. You re-use the cans. Compare that to produce grown commercially using artificial fertilizers, trucked for thousands of miles, canned in a factory in a non-reusable container, and then trucked to the store.
Many home gardeners work hard to generate vast amounts of produce, and then are afraid to try canning to preserve the fruits of their labors. It is, however, quite easy to learn how to can, pickle and make jams and jellies. Practically anyone can obtain the necessary equipment and learn how to do it safely and easily. The United States Department of Agriculture offers free on-line instructional booklet.