From Farm to Pantry: Easy Homegrown Vegetable Preservation

From Farm to Pantry: Easy Homegrown Vegetable Preservation

How do you take all the vegetables growing in your summer garden and make them last all year long? What does food preservation look like in a realistic way for a busy family?

I never gave a lot of thought to food preservation until I faced my first mountain of cucumbers. Our big garden started producing a huge wave of vegetables, but I noticed that the vegetable harvests didn't always land in the order or timing that my family wanted to eat them.

You can only eat so many zucchini in a day, after all.

I had a huge harvest of cucumbers and I had no idea what to do with them. I didn't want them to go to waste though, so how do you make cucumbers last longer? 

how to preserve vegetables to make them last longer

This was the beginning of my journey to learn food preservation. I started with pickles - a simple project for beginners that made me fall in love with preserving our own food at home. Admittedly, my first pickles tasted terrible.

They were so bad, in fact, that my children wouldn't try a homemade pickle for years because they remembered how bad mom's first pickles were. It's the stuff family jokes are made of. But I got better with time and now my kids love my pickles. We all start somewhere!

canning vegetables at home

Making pickles has snowballed into a whole new lifestyle for my family. As we grow more and more of our food, we've found it critical to know the proper ways to preserve it so nothing goes to waste.

Over time, we've been able to completely replace a lot of our former grocery store purchases with homegrown and home preserved replacements. We no longer buy tomato sauce, canned soups, broth, jam, fruit pie filling, pickles, canned green beans... the list goes on and on. 

Throughout the warmer months, we settle into a steady rhythm of harvesting and preserving. The vegetables come in waves - first radishes, cabbage, peas, beets, and broccoli. Then squash and cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and okra. 

We eat our fill of the garden in fresh food and then we preserve the rest to enjoy during the coming fall and winter.

How to Preserve Your Harvest

When you find yourself with an abundance of vegetables, preserving them allows you to enjoy your homegrown goodness long after the harvest season ends. If you’re swimming in an abundant harvest of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, it’s time to start preserving.

Let’s explore various methods for preserving your homegrown vegetables and fruits, ensuring that you savor their taste and nutritional value throughout the year.


freezing vegetables diy


Freezing vegetables is one of the simplest and most convenient methods of preservation. It helps retain the freshness and nutritional content of the vegetables while extending their shelf life. Here's how to do it:

  • Start by blanching your vegetables briefly in boiling water, then submerge them in ice water to stop the cooking process.
  • Pat the vegetables dry and pack them into airtight freezer bags or containers.
  • Label each container with the vegetable name and date before placing them in the freezer.

Frozen vegetables can last for an extended period if stored properly. While they don't spoil like fresh vegetables, their quality can deteriorate over time. Here are some general guidelines for the shelf life of frozen vegetables:

  1. Store-bought frozen vegetables: Most store-bought frozen vegetables are labeled with a "best by" or "use by" date. It is recommended to consume them before this date to enjoy the best quality, flavor, and nutritional value. However, if stored properly, they can still be safe to consume beyond the recommended date.

  2. Home-frozen vegetables: When you freeze vegetables at home, the shelf life can vary depending on factors such as the type of vegetable, pre-freezing preparation, packaging, and storage conditions. In general, home-frozen vegetables can last between 8 to 12 months in the freezer without significant loss in quality.

To maximize the shelf life of frozen vegetables, follow these tips:

  • Package properly: Ensure the vegetables are tightly sealed in airtight freezer bags or containers to prevent exposure to air and moisture, which can cause freezer burn and deterioration in quality.

  • Maintain a consistent temperature: Keep the freezer temperature at or below 0°F (-18°C) to preserve the quality of the vegetables. Fluctuations in temperature can impact their texture and taste.

  • Use proper storage practices: Store frozen vegetables away from the freezer door and in a place where they won't be subject to temperature fluctuations. Also, avoid storing them near items that emit strong odors, as frozen vegetables can absorb odors easily.

  • Rotate and use older packages first: Practice a "first in, first out" approach, using the oldest packages of frozen vegetables first to ensure they are consumed before their quality starts to decline.

While frozen vegetables can remain safe to eat for an extended period, their quality may gradually diminish over time. If you notice any significant changes in color, texture, or taste, it may be an indication that they are past their prime and should be discarded.

Many fruits can also be safely frozen. We freeze strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries to enjoy all year long in smoothies. 


canning vegetables in mason jars


Canning is another popular preservation method that allows you to store vegetables for an extended period. There are three main types of canning: water bath canning, steam canning, and pressure canning.

Water bath canning is suitable for high-acid vegetables like tomatoes, while pressure canning is essential for low-acid vegetables like green beans and carrots. Here's a general guide:

  • Prepare your vegetables by washing, peeling, and cutting them into appropriate sizes.
  • Follow a trusted canning recipe that provides specific instructions for your vegetable of choice.
  • Sterilize your canning jars and lids by boiling them or using a dishwasher.
  • Fill the jars with your prepared vegetables and the recommended canning liquid, leaving appropriate headspace.
  • Place the jars in a water bath or pressure canner according to the recipe instructions.
  • Process the jars for the recommended time, ensuring that they are sealed properly before storing them.

Home-canned food can have a long shelf life if processed and stored correctly. However, it's important to note that the exact shelf life can vary depending on several factors, including the type of food, the canning method used, and the storage conditions. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. High-Acid Foods (Water Bath and Steam Canning): High-acid foods, such as fruits, jams, jellies, and pickles that are processed using a water bath canning method, have a shorter shelf life compared to low-acid foods. Typically, these foods can last for about 1 to 2 years when stored in a cool, dark place. However, it's best to consume them within the first year for optimal flavor and quality.

  2. Low-Acid Foods (Pressure Canning): Low-acid foods, such as vegetables, meats, and soups, require pressure canning to ensure safety. When processed and sealed correctly, these foods can have a longer shelf life. Generally, low-acid canned foods can last for 2 to 5 years or even longer when stored in ideal conditions. However, it's recommended to consume them within 2 to 3 years to maintain the best quality.

Factors that Influence Shelf Life:

  • Proper processing: Ensuring that the home canning process follows reliable, research-based recipes and guidelines is crucial for safety and shelf life. This includes using the correct processing times, pressure levels, and acidification techniques, depending on the type of food being canned.

  • Sealing integrity: It's important to check that the jars are properly sealed after canning. The lids should be vacuum-sealed and show no signs of bulging or leakage. If any jars have compromised seals or show signs of spoilage (e.g., mold, strange odor), they should be discarded.

  • Storage conditions: The shelf life of home-canned food is greatly affected by storage conditions. Store the jars in a cool, dry, and dark place with temperatures between 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C). Avoid storing them in areas prone to extreme temperature fluctuations, excessive heat, or direct sunlight.

Regularly inspect the canned food for any signs of spoilage, such as an off-putting odor, unusual appearance, or mold growth. If any doubts arise about the safety or quality of the canned food, it's best to err on the side of caution and discard it.

Remember, these are general guidelines, and it's important to consult trusted canning resources, such as reputable canning guides or your local cooperative extension office, for specific information on canning different types of foods.

For more canning help, grab my ebook "Home Canning for Beginners" or join Extra Grace to attend one of our monthly canning workshops or watch replays of previous workshops. It's like coming over and hanging out with me in my kitchen while we learn to can and preserve all the things together. 

dehydrating vegetables and fruit at home


Dehydrating vegetables removes their moisture content, making them lightweight, compact, and shelf-stable. Dehydrated vegetables can be stored in airtight containers for an extended period. Here's how to dehydrate your homegrown vegetables:

  • Wash and prepare the vegetables by slicing them into uniform pieces.
  • Arrange the vegetable slices on dehydrator trays, ensuring they don't overlap.
  • Set the dehydrator to the appropriate temperature and allow the vegetables to dry for the recommended time.
  • Check for dryness by testing the vegetables for crispness.
  • Once fully dehydrated, let the vegetables cool before storing them in airtight containers.

Dehydrated food, when properly prepared, stored, and protected from moisture, can have an impressive shelf life. The exact duration of shelf life can vary depending on the type of food, the dehydration method used, packaging, and storage conditions. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Fruits and Vegetables: Dehydrated fruits and vegetables, if stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark, and dry location, can last anywhere from 1 to 2 years or even longer. Over time, the flavor and texture may gradually deteriorate, but the food remains safe to consume.

  2. Meats and Jerky: Dehydrated meats and jerky have a longer shelf life compared to fruits and vegetables. When properly dehydrated and stored, they can last for 1 to 2 years or more. It's important to ensure that the meat is fully dehydrated to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage.

  3. Herbs, Spices, and Seasonings: Dehydrated herbs, spices, and seasonings have an exceptional shelf life. When stored in airtight containers away from light and moisture, they can retain their flavor and potency for 2 to 3 years or even longer.

Factors that Influence Shelf Life:

  • Proper dehydration: Thoroughly drying the food is crucial for extended shelf life. Ensure that the food is dehydrated to the appropriate moisture level to prevent spoilage and the growth of mold or bacteria.

  • Packaging: Store dehydrated food in airtight containers such as glass jars, vacuum-sealed bags, or moisture-proof containers. Proper packaging helps protect the food from exposure to moisture, air, and light, which can lead to quality deterioration.

  • Storage conditions: Dehydrated food should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place with temperatures ideally below 70°F (21°C). Avoid storing them in areas prone to high humidity, such as the kitchen near the stove or in a damp basement.

  • Regular inspection: Periodically check your dehydrated food for any signs of spoilage, including off-putting odors, mold growth, or insect infestation. If you notice any signs of spoilage, it's best to discard the affected food.

It's important to note that while dehydrated food can remain safe for consumption over an extended period, the quality, flavor, and nutritional value may gradually diminish over time. Therefore, it's recommended to rotate and consume dehydrated foods within a reasonable time frame to enjoy their best quality.

Always trust your senses and use discretion when consuming dehydrated food that has been stored for a prolonged period. If in doubt about the safety or quality of the food, it's advisable to discard it.



Fermenting vegetables not only preserves them but also enhances their flavor and nutritional value. Fermented vegetables are rich in probiotics, which support gut health. Here's a basic fermentation method:

  • Clean and chop your vegetables into the desired size.
  • Massage the vegetables with salt to draw out their natural juices.
  • Pack the vegetables tightly into a clean, sterilized jar, ensuring they are fully submerged in their juices.
  • Place a fermentation weight or a smaller jar filled with water on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged.
  • Cover the jar with a breathable cloth or a fermentation lid to allow gases to escape.
  • Let the vegetables ferment at room temperature for a few days to several weeks, depending on your preference and the desired level of tanginess.
  • Once fermented, store the jar in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process.

The shelf life of fermented food can vary depending on several factors, including the type of food, the fermentation process, storage conditions, and personal preferences. Here are some general guidelines for common fermented foods:

  1. Sauerkraut and Kimchi: Sauerkraut and kimchi, two popular fermented cabbage dishes, can last for several months or even up to a year when stored properly. The fermentation process creates an acidic environment that helps preserve the vegetables. Ensure that the fermented cabbage is submerged in its brine or juice to prevent exposure to air, which can lead to spoilage. Store them in the refrigerator to slow down further fermentation.

  2. Fermented Pickles: Fermented pickles, made by submerging cucumbers in a brine solution, can last for several weeks to a few months in the refrigerator. The taste and texture may change over time, with the pickles becoming softer and more sour as the fermentation progresses. It's best to consume them within a few months for optimal flavor and quality.

  3. Fermented Dairy Products: Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir, and sour cream, can last for several weeks to a few months when stored properly in the refrigerator. The specific shelf life can vary depending on the level of acidity and the presence of any added ingredients. Always check for signs of spoilage, such as an off odor or unusual appearance, before consuming.

  4. Fermented Beverages (Kombucha, Water Kefir, etc.): Fermented beverages like kombucha or water kefir can last for several weeks to a few months when stored in the refrigerator. The shelf life can depend on factors such as the initial sugar content, fermentation time, and storage conditions. Keep in mind that the taste and carbonation levels may change over time.

Factors that Influence Shelf Life:

  • Fermentation process: Proper fermentation is crucial for food safety and extended shelf life. Follow reliable recipes and guidelines to ensure that the fermentation process is conducted under suitable conditions, including appropriate temperatures and fermentation times.

  • Storage conditions: Most fermented foods should be stored in the refrigerator to slow down further fermentation and preserve their quality. The lower temperatures help inhibit the growth of unwanted bacteria and mold.

  • Contamination prevention: Ensure that the fermented food is stored in clean, airtight containers to prevent contamination and exposure to air, which can lead to spoilage.

  • Personal preferences: The taste, texture, and overall quality of fermented foods can change over time. Some people prefer the flavors of freshly fermented foods, while others enjoy the more mature and tangier taste that develops over time. Adjust your consumption based on personal preference.

It's important to use your senses and discretion when consuming fermented foods. If you notice any signs of spoilage, such as an off odor, mold growth, or unusual appearance, it's best to discard the food to avoid any potential health risks.

Please note that these are general guidelines, and specific foods and fermentation methods may have different shelf lives. Always refer to trusted sources, recipes, and personal experience for more precise information on the shelf life of specific fermented foods.

freeze drying home food preservation

Freeze Drying

Freeze drying is an excellent option for preserving homegrown vegetables, offering extended shelf life, retained nutritional value, and convenience. While the process requires specialized equipment, the results are worth the investment.

Whether you're a gardening enthusiast, a prepper, or simply someone who wants to enjoy the taste of their homegrown produce year-round, freeze drying opens up new possibilities for enjoying your vegetables in a lightweight, long-lasting, and flavorful form.

This is the newest method of food preservation that my family has decided to try. We just got our new Harvest Right freeze dryer delivered and we are going to start putting it to work this week. I'll update you with a complete review once we've tried a few runs.

Benefits of Freeze Drying:

  • Retained Nutritional Value: Freeze drying preserves the nutritional content of the vegetables, including vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. This method minimizes nutrient loss and ensures that your homegrown vegetables retain their health benefits.

  • Long Shelf Life: Freeze-dried vegetables have an exceptionally long shelf life. When stored properly, they can last for several years while maintaining their taste, texture, and nutritional quality.

  • Easy Rehydration: One of the advantages of freeze-dried vegetables is that they rehydrate quickly when exposed to moisture. Simply soak them in water or add them directly to soups, stews, or other dishes during cooking.

  • Lightweight and Versatile: Freeze-dried vegetables are lightweight, making them convenient for backpacking, camping, or emergency food supplies. They are also versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes, including stir-fries, salads, and smoothies.

harvest right freeze dryer review

Preserving your homegrown vegetables allows you to relish the flavors and nutritional benefits long after the growing season ends. Whether you choose freezing, canning, dehydrating, or fermenting, each method has its unique advantages and charm.

Experiment with different methods and find the ones that suit your preferences and available resources. By preserving your homegrown vegetables, you can enjoy the taste of your hard work throughout the year and reduce food waste.

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Remember to always follow proper safety guidelines and use reliable sources for recipes and instructions when preserving your vegetables. It's important to ensure that your preservation methods maintain the quality, flavor, and safety of the vegetables.

So, get creative, roll up your sleeves, and embark on a journey of preserving the abundance of your homegrown vegetables. With a little effort and the right techniques, you can savor the taste of your garden in every season. Happy preserving!

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