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Food Preservation

By Charlie Robinson, Beechworth Urban Landcare & Sustainability

One of the quandaries facing those who grow their own fruit and vegetables is that, sooner or later, you will have an excess.  We have developed a number of strategies to deal with such an eventuality.

Freezing.  Depending on the crop, you can partially cook and then freeze your produce.  We do this with, for instance, corn and beans.  They can then be added to winter casseroles or soups and stews.

We have two large chest freezers and an upright freezer which are packed with the summer surfeit.  This is terrific until there is a prolonged power outage.  While it hasn’t happened to us as yet, we anticipate it may be a continuing reality with climate change.  We are always investigating more sustainable methods of preserving our harvest.  Here’s what we do at the moment:

Storage.  Vegetables such as pumpkins, carrots, parsnips and potatoes, can be harvested and then left in a cool, shaded position until needed.  When the cool winter months arrive, there’s nothing better than a warming bowl of pumpkin or vegetable soup.  Our slow combustion stove operates continually from April until September and there’s always a large pot of goodies simmering away.

Dehydrating.  There are a number of excellent electric dehydrators on the market.  Over the summer months we have two multi-layer units operating.  Usually, we have apricots, figs, and peaches being preserved in this manner.  There’s not much science involved –thinly slice the fruit, place onto each tray, turn on the machine, monitor for several hours (we run ours overnight) and, voila, magic nutrition.  Alternatively, you can make fruit leathers which are delicious in the depths of winter.

Solar dehydrating.  Simplicity itself.  For centuries, people have been preserving fruit by leaving them in the sun. Simply thread string through, for instance, apple and fig slices, and suspend them between two posts or trees.  We construct simple solar dehydrators from cardboard fruit boxes, shelving from stoves, glass from old windows, the neighbour’s car, or any other convenient sources.

The fruit from our home-made dehydrators do not look as palatable as those from the electric dehydrator, but the taste is still the same- delicious.

If you want to hear more about dehydrating and freezing, please come along to the next of the free nana-technology workshops at the Albury Community Wood Fired Oven in Hovell tree Park from 10am on Sunday 9 February.  See you there!