Sunday, March 25, 2018

Preserving Your Harvest

Food Garden Group member Margie M shared her extensive knowledge of preserving in a workshop for those with limited or no preserving experience.

At the start of the session Margie explained that freezing food is a simple way to preserve fruit and vegetables, but 1. it uses a lot of power compared to the methods mentioned below, 2. we all only have limited freezer space, and 3. you will have big problems if there is a lengthy power failure. That last one made us sit up and pay attention!

Pickling food is another safe method to preserving, but again, only if you refrigerate the result. 

To guarantee that your food is safe to eat when kept outside the fridge for a long time you need to use one of three preserving methods: water bath method, Fowlers Vacola or pressure canning. Which method you use depends on the acidity level of the food you want to preserve.

High acid foods are for instance: apples, peaches, pears, apricots, pickled beets, berries, plums, cherries, rhubarb, cranberries, tomatoes with acid added, fruit juices.

Low acid foods are for instance: asparagus, mushrooms, beans, okra, beets, peas, carrots, potatoes, corn, spinach, leeks, squash, meat, seafood

Margie then explained what the water bath method, Fowlers Vacola method, and pressure canning are.

To keep food safe outside the fridge for a long time preserve it as follows:

Margie then demonstrated the pressure canning method, showing us the do’s and don’ts that you need to observe in order to pressure-can safely. If you are aware of these safety issues, it is a straightforward efficient way of preserving. 
The top of Margie's pressure-canning unit
We discussed jars, where to buy things, and many other preserving issues.  Margie shared her extensive notes on preserving with us using her TV-screen in her living room because she keeps her notes in a Microsoft Office OneNote document.  This document she updates every time she finds out something new. After the session Margie gave all participants computer access to this OneNote document, so we now have handy access to her notes on our own computers.

Next on the list was dehydration.  Margie showed us her BioChef dehydrator and explained how it operates. We discussed the benefits of using a dedicated dehydrator compared to drying fruit and vegetables in a normal oven.
The BioChef Dehydrator
She also showed us her PacFood vacuum sealer and the plastic material that the sealer uses to seal food in. You could use the sealer after dehydrating, to make the food last even longer.

If you don’t like using plastic, there is a different method available. Margie showed how you can connect a special FoodSaver jar (the jar with the white top in the photo below) to the sealer.  Put a jar with food that you want to seal into this FoodSaver jar, press a button on the sealer unit, and the jar with food is sealed!

The PacFood vacuum sealer with FoodSaver jar connected
Dehydrating food and then sealing it allows long-term storage outside the fridge.  However, many vegetables don't taste great when hydrated after dehydrating. The method is most satisfactory for fruits.

Everyone was very impressed by Margie’s ‘larder’ in a cool room under the house. We talked about many of the preserved jars that were stored there, and the preserving method Margie had used for each of them. 
Margie's preserves under her house
Preserving is a big subject, and although Margie proved to be a fountain of knowledge on the subject, this was only a three hour session, and there is always more to learn.

Whatever you preserve, Margie pointed out, there is a great group of Aussies that will be very happy to help. These people can be found on a Facebook page called Preserving Food at Home. Once you are a member, you can ask for help on any preserving issue, and you will probably get a reply from someone within a few minutes. If you would like to join search in Facebook for Preserving Food at Home and request membership. I requested membership, provided answers to three simple questions asked, and was refused. No, just joking! I was made a member within minutes.
Many thanks, Margie, for sharing your skills, knowledge and time! All participants appreciated it a lot and felt inspired to begin to put into practice what was learned!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sharing our Hothouse Skills no.2

A meeting of members interested in hothouses last winter was followed by a second session on the subject in the middle of summer. We looked at the host’s hothouse, and everyone had the opportunity to ask hothouse-related questions or discuss successes and failures in their hothouse. This blog post focuses on three topics that were discussed and that might be of interest.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

What is Deep Hay Mulching?

What is deep-hay mulching, and what might be the benefits for food gardens? One of our members spoke highly of the method a few years ago. Then another member took it on in the hope that it would improve her food garden. Always keen to learn, I found out more.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Food Garden Calendar

This is a brave attempt to list in short dot points what you could do in your food garden and when it might be the best month to do it.

They may help beginning food gardeners and also assist those who are not used to Tasmania’s unique weather.  Experienced gardeners might like to use these dot points as memory joggers.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Making Your Own Seed Tapes

Thinning seedlings out in the garden is one of my least favourite garden jobs, so when Food Garden Group member Margie M commented that she now no longer may have to thin seedlings, I was immediately interested. In this blog post Margie explains her method.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Propagating in the Food Garden

At a recent food garden visit two Food Garden Group members explained and demonstrated the basics of propagation.  This blog post is a summary of what was discussed, with more info added when we put together the blog post.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sharing our Hothouse Skills no.1

Recently Food Garden Group members who have a hothouse or want to get one met and shared their hothouse knowledge and skills.  This was the first time we specifically talked about hothouses and we all learnt a lot.  This blog post is an overview of what was discussed, with the aim to help others to make the most out of their hothouse.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A wildlife-proof garden

Mandy lives on the edge of a country town in an area with lots of bush, paddocks, wallabies, possums, birds of prey and other wildlife. This blog post describes the netted enclosure and garden Mandy created. It might inspire people who live in similar environments because it demonstrates that fruit, vegetables, ornamentals and chooks can all be safe in areas where there is plenty of wildlife.