Homegrown tomatoes

How to preserve your harvests

Find out how to preserve your harvests in a range of different ways, including freezing, drying, pickling and more.

There are lots of ways to use up your home-grown harvests if you have a glut and there's too much for you to eat all at once – many fruit and vegetable crops can be preserved in a range of different ways.

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 the leaner, colder months.

It’s important to pick all fruit and vegetables in their prime and discard any that are damaged in any way. 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.

Here are range of techniques that you can use to preserve your harvests.

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Storing in a cool place

Several root veg and top fruits can be stored in a cool, well-ventilated spot, such as a shed or garage. Don't store root crops in a very dry place, or they will shrivel. Use within six months.

Suitable for: maincrop potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, pears and apples

How to do it

Root crops: Remove the leaves and shake off any loose soil. Store in layers of damp sand in a dark shed. 

Potatoes: Dry in the sun to harden the skins, then store them in hessian sacks in a dark place. Regularly check for signs of rot. 

Onions: Dry in the sun, then cure them in a porch or spare room until the skins are papery. Plait them together in strings. Read more about storing onions.

Wrap unbruised apples in newspaper and store them in boxes in the shed. Find out more about storing apples.

Freezing

Low temperatures inhibit the growth of bacteria. Blanching before freezing also kills bacteria and maintains the vitamin content. Use within six months.

Suitable for: root crops, onions, apples, pears, plums, raspberries, gooseberries, currantstomatoes, pods, sweetcorn, brassicas 

How to do it

Currants and raspberries: open-freeze currants on their stems and berries on trays before bagging.

Brussels sprouts, beans and broccoli: blanch in boiling water straight after picking. Cool them quickly, then dry them and pack them in bags. 

Apples and plums: slice apples and plums, toss with lemon and sugar, then freeze. Or juice and freeze in small quantities (you can also do this with pears).

Drying

Drying out food prevents bacteria from multiplying and intensifies flavour. You can buy a dehydrator, use an oven on a low heat, or hang some crops on a string. Use within six months.

Suitable for: onions, apples, pears, plums, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, pods and cobs

How to do it

Apples: core, then slice into rings and soak in salt water. String the rings on a line indoors, well spaced apart, for three to five days. Use this technique for chillies and mushrooms too, but drying times will vary.

Tomatoes: cut in half, then cover with salt and dry them on baking parchment in the oven. Store in jars of olive oil.

Onions: slice onions, dip in boiling water for 30 seconds, then dry on baking trays.

Making chutney

This quintessential preserving method uses sugar, salt and vinegar, combined with cooking the fruit or vegetables over a low heat for several hours. Use up within a year.

Suitable for: apples, marrows, courgettes, apricots, beans, beetroot, cauliflower, onions, quince, rhubarb and tomatoes

How to do it

Fry onions and garlic in a little oil, add spices. After a few minutes add your chosen vegetable mix plus vinegar, sugar and salt, and simmer. Follow our step-by-step guide to making chutney.

Pickling

Vinegar or brine preserve the produce. Sliced or chopped vegetables are sprinkled with coarse salt. Vinegar and spices are brought to the boil and once hot, poured over the rinsed vegetables. 

Suitable for: beetroot, courgettes, cucumbers, grapes, pears, peppers, plums and shallots

How to do it

Slice or chop your chosen vegetable and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt. Put vinegar, spices and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Add spices. Squeeze the salted vegetable and rinse. Pack into preserving jars and pour the vinegar solution over them. Follow our step-by-step guide to pickling cucumber.

Flavouring vinegars

Fruit, veg or herbs are steeped in vinegar over a period. The strained liquid is then heated with sugar and poured into sterilised containers.

Suitable for: apples, blackberries, blueberries, garlic, mint, peppers, raspberries, strawberries and tarragon

How to do it

Chop the fruit and pour over vinegar. Allow the mixture to steep for 7-10 days, covered, in a fridge. Stir each day. Strain the mixture and add the liquid to a saucepan, with sugar. Boil, until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to sterilised bottles. Follow our step-by-step guide to making fruit vinegar.
It’s really satisfying to see your shed, cupboards and freezer stocked up with home-grown produce.

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