Gardening: Harvesting Your Garden for the Winter

It’s that time of year.

Companion Planting GardenThe end of summer draws near and you want to prep and store as much of your garden produce as possible to use in the coming months. For those of you with your first-time-ever garden, you’ve probably found yourself with enough tomatoes and zucchini to feed the entire neighborhood! Don’t worry – it happens to all of us!

Every family has different favorites, likes and dislikes, so I’m only sharing this to give you some ideas. You’ll want to experiment and try different ways to save your produce so that it fits our family’s needs. Example: I never make up soups or stews and can them. I prefer to simply can the individual ingredients, so they can be combined together as I need in the coming months.

Here are some of the ways I’ve prepped produce for storage:

Onions: After pulling, brush off the dirt (do not wash) and store the bulbs in a cool and dark place, for use through the winter months. You can also peel and dice up some of the onions and store them in freezer bags in your freezer. They are handy for adding a small amount to a dish when you don’t need an entire onion for the recipe.

Potatoes: after digging up the potatoes, again simply brush off the dirt (do not wash) and store in a cool, dark location.

Canning EquipmentTomatoes: I prefer to can tomato juice from my produce, to be used in soups and stews. Tomatoes are high in acid so I always used a water bath (instead of a pressure canner) to can the juice. But today’s hybrid varieties don’t always have that same high acid content as in the past. Check to make sure it’s safe to use a water bath instead of a pressure canner.

Green Peppers & Chili Peppers: I dice these and store in freezer bags. I also dry them.

Cherry Peppers: I like to pickle these and water bath can them in glass jars.

Zucchini: After eating every zucchini dish I can imagine during the summer, I grate the remaining squash (do not peel) and measure it out into 2 cups per freezer bag. This is the exact measurement I need for my Zucchini Bread recipe. All winter long I can pull out a package from the freezer and make my bread.

Butternut & Acorn Squash, Pumpkins: These can be stored in a cool, dark location for quite a while, to be used as you wish. Make sure you leave some of the stem attached when you harvest.

Cucumber: You can make pickles from the small, young cucumbers throughout the summer. Bread ‘n Butter Pickles are easiest to make and water bath can. Dill pickles take a more elaborate process. Save the larger cucumbers to eat fresh.

Green Beans: Some people freeze green beans, but I prefer to can them.

Peas: These can be canned or frozen.

Corn: can be canned or frozen‑ comes down to personal preference. In the past I liked to freeze corn on the cob (individually wrapped) and I also cooked and cut off corn to freeze in bags. But these days I’m doing more canning and drying, since food can be stored without using electricity to keep a freezer running.

Carrots: I wash the carrots and slice into coins (using a food processor) and then can in jars. They can be frozen as well. I just prefer the canned variety.

Turnips: These can be left in the ground all fall and dug up as needed, even after a frost or snow.

Horseradish: you can use the root to make Horseradish Sauce in a food processor. Note: you may want to do this process out-of-doors! The root is potent!

Herbs: Some of my favorite herbs to grow are: Basil, Sage, Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary, Oregano, Borage, Mint and Dill Weed. Herbs to Dry
I pick my herbs throughout the summer and pinch off the flowers to keep plants from going to seed. If you live where you get a hard frost, you will eventually let them go to seed. I dry my herbs using a wood-frame dryer (with metal mesh trays), which can be set in an oven (on lowest temperature), or can even be used outside in the sun (use cheesecloth to keep insects away). It smells heavenly. I purchase little glass jars to store my herbs. I make a fresh batch each year. Some of my favorite herbs make companion plantings, as well as eating.

I make Applesauce using sweet apples and spices (and no sugar) and water bath can in glass jars. I also use cider and apples to make Apple Butter – which I water bath can in half pint jars.

Black Raspberries and Strawberries: What berries we don’t eat fresh, I freeze or use to make pies. Or you could make jelly or dry them.

Radishes, Green Onions, Lettuce, Celery, Eggplant, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli and Watermelon: I’ve always enjoyed these fresh from the garden while they last. I don’t usually have enough to save for the winter months, but the Eggplant, Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli could be frozen or dried.

•Please Note: Although I don’t specify it above, almost every food listed can be dehydrated or dried on racks for storage and future use. You would simply re-hydrate while cooking, or in some instances, simply eat in the dried state.


What is your favorite way to store foods for the winter?


  1. Lois

    I currently store most of my foods in the freezer, it’s what I grew up knowing. I do tomato sauces and applesauce in water bath canner but was never comfortable with canning much else. I’m now looking into dehydrating more of my foods to both save space and energy and have decided on a pressure canner as that makes more sense than keeping so much of my foods in a freezer.

    • indy

      I agree with your thinking, Lois. I’m doing less and less with the freezer. I followed (to the letter) the instructions that came with the pressure canner and did just fine. But, I grew up using a pressure cooker for meals, so it wasn’t a big leap for me. I too am interested in the whole food dehydration idea. I’ve done it with my herbs, but haven’t tried doing vegetables or fruits with it. I’ve also always wanted to do fruit leathers. How yummy would that be!? :0)


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