Earth Day, which we observe tomorrow, has been celebrated for nearly 40 years, but in 2009, April 22 seems to have more folks thinking about eco-friendly products, organic foods, and gardens and canning.
Many are considering growing a vegetable garden, including my Ohio daughter and son-in-law. They ve even considered canning tomatoes in the summer, but when asked if they should buy a pressure canner, she said, let s just grow the garden first.
That s where most of us are at. If you want a vegetable garden, what plants are you going to grow?
Grow what you love to eat, advises Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Keep in mind how much your family will consume throughout the season. Varieties such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash keep providing all summer and fall, whereas you may need to plant more of other vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and corn that produce only once. Start small with your first garden.
If you are big on salads, grow lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers. If you love to cook, plant onions, leeks, potatoes, and herbs. If you have room, opt for stalks of corn or melon vines. Pick five or six crops and learn by caring for them. Then expand next year.
If you are thinking of tomato plants, are you also considering canning?
I consulted with Lauren Devine of Jarden Home Brands, which includes Ball and Kerr canning products, who is editor of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (Robert Rose, $22.95). The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, now with a 100th Anniversary Edition (it s the 125 anniversary of Ball canning products), is a standard resource. Information from both resources match the USDA guidelines.
Ms. Devine advises that there are two methods of home canning. For green beans and other vegetables (low-acid foods), use a pressure canner. For tomatoes, including salsa (high-acid foods), use a boiling water canner. This boiling water canner gives the best quality for tomatoes because it s not used at as high a temperature, she says.
Most people need two canners, said the fresh-preserving community manager in Daleville, Ind. But we sell a home canner rack by itself, which may fit into a large stock pot or a huge pasta pan with a lid.
If you have been given an old-fashioned canner with a waffle bottom, it will not work on a flat cooking surface of some newer stove tops. These don t have the direct surface at all points. We have produced a stainless-steel water bath canner with a flat bottom that can be used (on flat cooking surface stove tops). These products are available at the Jarden Home Brands Website, freshpreserving.com, as well as major stores. The site also has a step-by-step tutorial. Once at the home page, go to the How To tab at the top and click. The tutorials include Step-By-Step High-Acid Foods, Low-Acid Foods, Video Demo, Freezing, and other information.
By April 26, we will upload more videos of canning directions, said Ms. Devine, a Purdue University food science graduate. There will be green beans in the steam pressure canner; tomatoes in water bath canner, and cooked strawberry jam in water bath canner.
Gardeners should know that it s best to pick produce and can immediately to capture freshness. For the new gardener and new home canner, there s a refrigerated pickle recipe on the Web site to use instead of home canning processing.
You may e-mail questions about canning by clicking on Contact Us at the bottom of the home page. You can also call 800-240-3340.