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How to store, freeze and dry your harvests

Don’t waste your home-grown produce if there's too much for you to eat all at once – many fruit and vegetable crops can be stored, frozen or dried for enjoying later.

It’s really satisfying to see your shed, cupboards and freezer stocked up with home-grown produce, and it will also save you money, helping to feed the family through until next season.

When storing, it’s important to pick all fruit and vegetables in their prime and discard any that are damaged. Chill perishable crops, such as berries and stone fruits, if you can’t process them straight away. Don’t wash newly harvested veg until just before preserving, as this can encourage the growth of bacteria.


Storing

Harvested beetroot
 
Storing potatoes in a sack
 
Harvested onions

Several types of roots and fruits can be stored in a cool, well-ventilated spot, such as a shed or garage, until required. Root crops lose moisture and shrivel if kept in a dry place. 

Suitable for: root crops, onions and top fruit. Use within six months.

● Lift root crops, such as carrots, remove the leaves and shake off any loose soil. Store them in layers of damp sand in a dark shed. 

● Sun-dry potatoes to harden the skins, then store them in hessian sacks in a dark place. Regularly check for signs of rot. 

● Dry onions in the sun, then cure them in a porch or spare room until the skins are papery. Plait them together in strings. 

● Wrap unbruised apples in newspaper and store them in boxes in the shed. 


Freezing

Bowl of blackberries
 
Sliced runner beans
 
Plums in a bowl

Low temperatures inhibit the growth of bacteria that spoil food. Blanching before freezing also kills bacteria and maintains the vitamin content of the crop.

Suitable for: root crops, onions, top fruit, soft fruit, veg fruits, tomatoes, pods and cobs, brassicas. Use within six months.

● Open-freeze currants on their stems and berries on trays before bagging.

● Blanch veg in boiling water straight after picking. Cool them quickly, then dry them and pack them in bags. Beans, sprouts and broccoli are successful.

● Slice apples and plums, toss with lemon and sugar, then freeze.

● Juice apples, pears and plums and freeze in small quantities.


Drying

Harvested apples
 
Picking chillies
 
Salting tomatoes

Bacteria need water, so drying out food prevents them from multiplying. 

Suitable for: onions, top fruit, veg fruits, tomatoes, pods and cobs. Use within six months.

● Core apples, then slice into rings and soak in salt water. String the rings on washing lines indoor, well spaced apart, for three to five days. Use this technique for chillies and mushrooms too, but drying times will vary.

● Cut tomatoes in half, then cover with salt and dry them on baking parchment in the oven. Store in jars of olive oil.

● Slice onions, dip in boiling water for 30 seconds, then dry on baking trays.

● You can buy a dehydrator for around £50, or use an oven on a low heat.




Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: How to store, freeze and dry your harvests
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edzell 12/10/2012 at 10:32

I would have thought that blanching soft fruit would make it go mushy and difficult to keep separate when freezing

obelixx 12/10/2012 at 11:22

I never blanch soft fruit.  Blueberries, black and red currants just go in a plastic bag or tupperware and get frozen whole.  Raspberries and blackberries need to be laid out on trays and frozen flat and separately but can then be stored in bags or tupperwares.   Haven't yet tried freezing plums but I imagine the best method is to halve, stone and freeze on trays then transfer to bags for easier storage.

Strawberries do not freeze well so are best made into jam, puree/coulis or compote.

Green Magpie 12/10/2012 at 17:36

No, don't blanch soft fruit, it's perfectly OK frozen as it comes. I have some shallow plastic boxes ( from takeaway meals, I think) and find they are perfect for raspberries and blackberries. Blackcurrants and gooseberries and chopped rhubarb I just bung in a freezer bag - I don't find they clump or stick together much.

Otherwise you can cook them (e.g. gooseberries, apples, rhubarb) and thaw when you want to use them in puddings or as fruit purees.