Preserving the harvest is rewarding & easier when you know the best crops for preserving for beginners.
Although you do need to invest in certain equipment if you’re preserving with canning, or a dehydrator for dehydrating, many crops can be just frozen (even without blanching!). Food that is in-season during the summer months tend to be cheaper than the off-season where prices can sometimes double if they’re being shipped from far away. This means summer and fall are the perfect times for preserving those crops so you can dent your grocery bill.
Best Crops for Preserving
- Peppers– Are expensive to buy at the store (especially organic!). Freeze them, make hot sauce, can roasted red peppers or dehydrate them.
- Green Beans– I’m personally not a fan of canned green beans, but frozen are amazing and super easy to toss into a casserole or steam up for dinner. I’ve personally had better luck not blanching them before freezing. Pickling green beans keeps the crunch instead of pressure canning them into more mushy veggies.
- Kale– you don’t even need to blanch it before freezing! Also an easy green to dehydrate, a bag of kale chips is super expensive and kale is easy to grow and prolific you might as preserve this nutritious green. Other greens like spinach or mustard greens can be frozen too.
- Tomatoes– although you can often buy conventional tomatoes for $2 a jar, salsa tends to go for $3 or $4 and if you head to the organic section you’re looking at a whopping $4-7 for a jar! They take more practice and soil nutrients to get the larger yields but are worth it. Growing your tomatoes also opens a world of flavour opportunities.
- Winter Squash/Pumpkins– if you like to eat fresh squash it’s often not the price/lb that’s expensive, it’s the weight. At $1.50-$2/lb (or more) many squash are 5-10lbs making then add up quickly in your grocery bill. Baking a large winter squash or pumpkin then freezing the puree makes for excellent soups, pies, mashed as a side dish and many more recipes! You can also cure them and store for many months during the winter time, we means you can preserve food in the winter months when you’re not
- Summer Squash/Zucchini– dehydrating into chips or small pieces for soups and stews has been a fav way to preserve this crop. You can also freeze zucchini into ‘pucks’cup sized portions for baking.
- Cucumbers– most people love pickles! (I happen to not like them but my kid do) so they’re worth growing and preserving because they’re one of the easiest crops if you’re new to canning.
- Berries– although berries will take a few years before yields are high, they are a great investment if you buy a lot of berries as they’re expensive to buy. Freeze for smoothies or baking or make lots of jam or sauce with canning.
- Any fruit- Apples make excellent apple sauce, or you can apple pie filling or dehydrate them into apple pieces. I love canning peaches every summer, we can slices and make vanilla peach jam. We also make an excellent spiced plum jam. I often prefer canning sauce instead of jam because you can use them in smoothies, into muffins or inside crepes yet still use it on toast.
- Garlic– is easy to cure and store for 6-12 months depending on the variety. Garlic is a great flavour enhancer and makes excellent food based medicine, bonus the the hardneck varieties produce ‘garlic scapes‘ which are super easy to freeze and taste delicious.
- Cabbages– make your own sauerkraut for the winter months or grow the cold hardy varieties to harvest in early winter and store in a cold room.
- Potatoes & Root Crops– Many can be canned (picked beets or carrots, pressure canned potatoes or carrots) but these crops are also excellent if you have a cold room or root cellar to store during the winter months.