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Preserve Your Backyard Harvest, Maximize Your Food Security

by Bill Bradley

Preserving the garden harvest is a way of ensuring food security for yourself and family by making jams, jellies, pickles, and spaghetti sauche. Photo by Bill Bradley.
Preserving the garden harvest is a way of ensuring food security for yourself and family by making jams, jellies, pickles, and spaghetti sauche. Photo by Bill Bradley.
The author turned Early Gold pears from his own pear tree into delicious pear preserves. Photo by Bill Bradley.
The author turned Early Gold pears from his own pear tree into delicious pear preserves. Photo by Bill Bradley.
The author turned Early Gold pears from his own pear tree into delicious pear preserves. Photo by Bill Bradley.
The author turned Early Gold pears from his own pear tree into delicious pear preserves. Photo by Bill Bradley.
The author turned Early Gold pears from his own pear tree into delicious pear preserves. Photo by Bill Bradley.
The author turned Early Gold pears from his own pear tree into delicious pear preserves. Photo by Bill Bradley.

Have you ever wondered how you can make more out of your own garden vegetables and fruit or take advantage of the cheaper produce at local supermarkets during peak harvest periods?

With rising food prices, especially for fruit this year due to the severe drought and abnormal spring weather, local shoppers are receiving shocks at the supermarket this fall. Unusually warm weather in mid-March followed by unexpected frosts have decimated fruit crops in Ontario, media sources have reported.  Drought in mid-summer worsened the situation, stressing orchards. That means higher prices for plums, cherries, pears and even apples. Shoppers find fruit expensive enough without being affected by the weather.

There is a way to cut costs and stretch your food budget – preserve your harvest. The Foodshed Project, a non profit organization dedicated to local food security for the past nine years, is initiating a series of “Preserve The Harvest” workshops. They take place at the Environmental Resource Centre (ERC) at reThink Green (176 Larch Street) over the next while. The workshops will include a video featuring Tammy Cheguis, registered dietician with the Sudbury and District Health Unit.

“The video covers a broad range of topics on the latest food safety and preserving techniques,” Doreen Ojala, Foodshed project manager, said in her poster. “Also, learn what is available through Eat Local Sudbury! Preserving Ontario’s Harvest booklet. Fruit and Vegetable Storage Guidelines are available,” she added. A light snack will be provided.

The workshops are funded by a two-year provincial Trillium grant which has also been supporting The Foodshed Project’s Grow A Row program, in which gardeners donate a portion of their produce to local food banks nearest to their homes. Community gardeners, such as those at the Ste. Anne community garden outside the Social Planning Council building downtown, have also been participating. CBC Radio One listeners may recall Morning North host Marcus Schwabe’s accounts of growing food in raised boxes at the site over the past two years. Harvest Workshop participants are welcome to bring Grow A Row donations!

Adventures in Canning

I started to preserve my own fruits and vegetables after learning how to do it from my Gatchell neighbour George Blanchard about five years ago. He showed me first how to make pickles, then jam, then spaghetti sauce using my own tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and small fruit like gooseberries. Since then I have gone on to make jellies and this year I started making wine from my Concord grapes. I have even harvested my newly planted Cascade hops for my own home beer. My neighbour has passed on his lifelong experience with canning to me.  Canning is not difficult, but if you are new to canning, it is important to know your way around food safety.   Acidity, sterilization, and canning times are all factors to be aware of.  One great way to gain safe and effective canning skills is to attend the “Preserve the Harvest” workshops.  Other ways are to follow tested recipes, or to learn from an experienced friend.

If you do not have fruit trees in your yard, your neighbour may, and they may have excess fruit to share. Also try the Farmers market downtown on weekends for locally produced fruit and vegetables or produce from further afield in the province. Eat Local Sudbury also has fresh local produce available.  Prices are lowest now as the harvest season is underway. Now is the time to get canning! Canning supplies are readily available in many supermarkets.

I hate to admit it but before I started canning my produce, I wasted a lot of my produce, leaving it to rot, because I was too busy working to keep up with the harvest. Though canning too takes time, it is a better alternative to the compost pile. And, if your fridge or freezer goes off due to a power failure it is nice to know you have food, ready to go, in your pantry.

The “Preserving the Harvest” Workshop times are:
Thursday Sept. 20… 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Tuesday Sept. 25…..6:30-8:00 p.m.
Thursday Sept. 27….5:30-7:00 p.m.
Tuesday Oct. 2……….6:30-8:00 p.m.
Thursday Oct. 4……..5:30-7:00 p.m.
Tuesday Oct. 9……….6:30-8:00 p.m.
Thursday Oct. 11…...5:30-7:00 p.m.

For more information or to register, you can email growarowgreatersudbury@gmail.com or eric@eatlocalsudbury.com. The Foodshed Project's website can be found at www.foodshedproject.ca -- they are currently looking for new members.

William Peter Bradley is a freelance writer and journalist and his activities are updated time to time at his website www.northernpecan.ca . He is also president of the board of directors of Foodshed and has gardened organically for 30 years in Toronto and locally.

To learn about writing for Grassroots Sudbury Media or to let us know about local issues and events, email us at grassrootssudburymedia@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Facebook.

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