Easiest Vegetables to Grow

Easiest Vegetables to Grow

When it comes to growing your own vegetables, practice makes perfect. The longer you do it, the easier it will be to cultivate and develop that “green thumb” you’ve always wanted.

But if you’re just getting started, you don’t have time to waste sitting around and wondering why your plants won’t grow. Instead, you need a quick list of the easiest vegetables to grow so that you can get started right away. 

If you’re stuck in a rut and looking for a quick fix to your gardening-challenged ways, don’t worry. These are some of the easiest vegetables you can grow – no matter where you live or how little experience you have. 

Lettuce and Other Leafy Greens

Lettuce is not only easy to harvest (most cultivars are continuous-harvest types, making it easy for you to snip off leaves as needed) but it also is easy to grow and takes up little space. You can even grow it in a container, indoors, or as an accent plant for flowers or for larger, taller plants. 

While just about all types of leafy greens are easy to grow (including kale, chard, spinach, and mustard greens), lettuce is by far one of the easiest. Many types are even shade-tolerant, meaning you can plant them wherever you happen to have space.

Lettuce is great because it is a plant that you can plant in small batches, subsequently planting new batches one after the other. By planting multiple harvests, you’ll enjoy lettuce throughout the entire growing season – instead of being overrun all at once. To do this, try to plant a fresh crop every two to three weeks. 

Lettuce should be growing in well-draining soil that’s amended with aged compost. Harvest first thing in the morning, as harvesting later in the day can cause your lettuce to taste limp and soggy. 

Cucumbers

What goes best in a leafy green salad? A fresh, crunchy cucumber, of course! Cucumbers are perfect in salads and they’re also super easy to grow. They can be grown in a horizontal or a vertical fashion, so as long as you give them room in one direction to sprawl, they’ll go crazy! Just remember to water them regularly and plant them somewhere in which they’ll have access to constant sunlight. 

If you’re growing in a small space, consider planting a bush variety of cucumber instead of a vining species. You can start cucumber seeds indoors about three weeks before planting, or you can purchase seedlings at the local nursery. Regardless, these plants are warm-weather crops that should be planted long after the danger of frost has passed. 

Tomatoes

Although tomatoes are technically fruits, we’ll humor the traditional gardeners among us and put them on this list. Tomatoes can be grown in just about any size garden. Whether you want to grow them in hanging baskets, in containers, or in raised beds, tomatoes are easy to grow. There are plenty of types to choose from, too, including cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, and beefsteak tomatoes. 

The beauty of growing tomatoes is that you don’t have to start them from seed  – they are easy to transplant and are incredibly hardy. 

Carrots

The humble carrot is truly a “set-and-forget” kind of crop. You can grow them just about anywhere – although you will want to keep in mind that they won’t grow as large if you have rocky soil. Choose ground that is deep, wells-raining, and loosely packed. Many people grow carrots in raised beds, but you could grow them in a container, too – just make sure they have plenty of sunlight.

They can even tolerate a frost! Good news for us forgetful gardeners. 

Radishes

Radishes grow really quickly, so even if you do make a mistake in growing them, you won’t have to worry – you can have another batch planted and mature in just three weeks. Versatile and easy to use in your booking, they aren’t just for salads but can also be used in stir-fries and other dishes, too. 

The secret to growing radishes is to avoid overcrowding the seeds. You need the dirt to be loose and the plants to be spaced far enough apart so that they do not compete with each other for space. 

Green Beans

Any kind of green bean can be grown in the backyard garden, from snap beans to shell beans or even whole beans. With hundreds of varieties to choose from, you’ll also get a great deal of entertainment out of snapping them! There are two major types of green beans you can grow – vine and bush. While bush green beans require less space, some people consider the vining variety easier to cultivate. 

Nevertheless, both types of green beans can be grown from seed and most allow for a continuous harvest throughout the growing season. Just make sure you have full sun and well-draining soil.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are surprisingly easy to grow, especially when you consider how expensive they are to purchase in the autumn season! However, all you need is warm soil and plenty of sunlight. There are dozens of different types of pumpkins you can grow, from miniatures to those that are perfect for Jack o’Lanterns. 

Zucchini 

Zucchini, as well as all other summer squashes, are super easy to grow. In fact, if you plant just one or two zucchini plants, you’ll likely find that you have so many that you’re forced to give them away to your neighbors! Zucchini plants grow well both in containers as well as directly in the ground. They are easy to grow from seed and require plenty of moisture and warm soil. 

When you plant zucchini, do so in well-draining soil, ideally, that which is amended with lots of compost. Full sunlight is best, and keep in mind that you will want to provide plenty of room for the vines to run. Water regularly and fertilize once a month. 

And don’t worry if you’re a gardening procrastinator, either. These seeds are best planted later in the season since they love the heat. So no worries if you forget!

Peas

Peas are similar to green beans in that it is easy to quickly become overrun with these flavorful pods. Grow one pea plant, and you’ll have enough to last you for quite some time. However, you can also simultaneously sow varieties with different maturity dates in order to get a continuous harvest throughout the summer. 

Another benefit of growing peas is that you don’t have to wait for the risk of frost to pass, either. You can plant these as soon as the soil can work. Two or more weeks before the last average frost date is fine.

Bell Peppers

A flavorful vegetable that is incredibly versatile, bell peppers can be grown indoors or outside. If you start seeds inside, you can do so about four to six weeks before transplanting them. You can also purchase seedlings from a nearby nursery, but most experienced gardeners don’t recommend trying to sow seeds directly. 

The reason for this is that bell peppers love heat, and need plenty of heat and sunlight in order to develop. You can’t plant seeds until all danger of frost has passed, and they likely won’t mature in time if you wait to start seed sat this point. 

When you plant, put them in direct sunlight, with each plant about six inches apart in well-drained soil. Water and fertilize regularly, and be sure to pull any weeds that appear – peppers are quite vulnerable to many types of weeds. 

Beets

Beets are easy vegetables to grow from seed. These develop quickly and form uniform bulbs when you grow them in loose soil, so for planting, just try to aerate the soil as much as possible to remove stones and clumps. For small beets, double your seeds in each row. This will produce smaller roots. 

Beets, like radishes, are ready for harvest quite early in the season. You don’t have to rely on the typical purple beets, either, to fill your garden beds and pantry. There are also red, white, and yellow beets available too!

Garlic

Surprised to see garlic on here? Don’t be! It’s another “set-and-forget” kind of vegetable. All you need to do is tuck cloves in the garden in the fall, mulching them with straw to reduce weeds and conserve moisture. You won’t harvest until the following year, pulling the bulbs in the midsummer. You can harvest once half the leaves have turned yellow and simply hang the plants to dry. 

The Easiest Vegetables to Grow for a Low-Maintenance Garden

Gardening doesn’t have to be tricky – nor does it require a ton of talent. You just need to have a good understanding of which vegetables will grow well in your chosen site. It’s not rocket science, but you should pick a spot that offers at least eight hours of sunlight and well-draining soil.

Don’t have these conditions on your farm? Don’t worry! You can still grow a garden. Instead, consider planting in containers or using raised beds to build your own ideal conditions wherever you want them to be. You’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor in no time!

Companion Planting Container Gardening Ideas

Companion Planting Container Gardening Ideas

Are you looking for some excellent companion planting container gardening ideas?

You’ve come to the right place. 

There are plenty of ideas out there when it comes to companion planting in a regular garden. You’ve likely heard of the Three Sisters, the infamous planting of corn, beans, and squash that is designed to maximize yields and minimize pests. 

However, when it comes to container gardening ideas – a must-have for urban gardeners – all you’ll hear is crickets. 

That’s not to say that companion planting doesn’t work well in a container garden, however. In fact, we’ll walk you through some of the best companion planting container gardening ideas out there so you can improve your yields and minimize the amount of work it takes for you to care for your garden. 

What is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is a method of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs so that you can harness the benefits of all the plants in your grouping. 

By planting certain species together that are known to offer certain benefits, you can reduce the amount of time you have to spend weeding, watering, fertilizing, and otherwise caring for your plants. 

For example, some plants have pest-repellent properties that can help keep certain types of bugs away from vulnerable plants. Others fix certain nutrients into the soil (beans are a good example), helping to improve the availability of these necessary components for your other plants. 

Companion planting is a smart way to make the most of the space you have – and it’s a technique that can be incorporated into any garden. 

Best Companion Planting Container Gardening Ideas 

Container Salad Mix 

One of the most common companion planting container gardening ideas is that of salad vegetables. This is not only convenient for you as you are preparing a salad for dinner, but is also highly beneficial for the plants. 

Start by planting a large tomato plant in the center of a container but about five inches from the back so it won’t shade tinier plants. Around the tomato, you can place a mixture of lettuce, spinach, and even carrot seeds. 

If you have extra room left over and want to increase your protection against insects, you can plant a sage plant or some rosemary, both of which will provide a lovely garnish for your salad. 

Lettuce and Root Crops 

Growing lettuce with root crops is a smart choice because lettuce grows rapidly and can be harvested before your root vegetables reach full maturity. The lettuce will help to prevent weeds and will provide necessary shade to your cold-loving root vegetables. It will also help retain soil moisture. 

You might consider planting lettuce with turnips, carrots, beets, or onions. To do this, plant the root crops at the distance specified on the seed packets, then plant the lettuce seeds between the rows. 

Container Herb Garden 

There are all kinds of herbs that can be grown together, which is why many people dedicate entire sections of their gardens exclusively to herbs. 

The real beauty of growing herbs is that they take up very little space yet offer high yields for their small size. Most are drought-tolerant, too, and remarkably easy to care for. 

You can grow all kinds of herbs together in a container since they are so small, but here are a few groupings you might want to consider: 

  • Stevia, lemon mint, lemon balm, lemon basil 
  • Rosemary, sage, thyme, bay laurel
  • Cilantro, thyme, oregano, mint, parsley 
  • Lemon verbena, rose geranium, anise hyssop

The only cautionary advice here is that you will want to keep an eye on your mint as it grows – it has a tendency to sprawl and can be somewhat invasive.

Pizza Garden 

Love pizza? You can easily grow your own DIY pizza garden in a container! Plant the following herbs together: oregano, basil, and chives. Add a determinate variety of bush tomato, and you’ll have everything you need for a delicious one-stop pizza shop. 

There are other benefits (besides convenience while cooking!) to planting these species together, too. Basil has pest-repelling properties that help keep certain bugs off your tomatoes- you’ll appreciate this in the dead of summer when all of your other tomatoes are falling victim to pests like aphids, hornworms, and milkweed bugs. Basil is also a natural fungicide! 

Container Gardening Ideas for Tomatoes 

As you may have already noticed by reading the other tips in this article, tomatoes are perfect for container plants if you’re looking for ideal companion planting container gardening ideas. Not only do they grow well in containers, but they benefit from a long list of other plants, too.

Here are some plants you can grow in containers with tomatoes:

  • Cucumbers (with climbing support – it won’t shade out the tomato when planted correctly)
  • Parsley 
  • Nasturtiums and marigolds (the flower draw insects away) 
  • Onions or chives
  • Carrots 

The “Two” Sisters 

You’ve already heard of the classic “Three Sisters” planting, but it’s best to ditch one sister if you’re growing in a container. Corn does not grow well in a container, not only because it needs a lot of space, but also because it needs to be wind-pollinated and planted near other corn plants. 

You can easily plant squash and beans in a container, however. They can be grown in vining or bush form, but the best way to do this is to plant one of both. That way, you can string up one crop vertically and keep the other low so it can shade the soil. 

Any kind of squash will do, but summer squash (like zucchini) will usually work best. You can also throw a few marigolds or nasturtiums in the container to keep pests away. 

Pickles Pot 

Love homemade pickles? Why not grow a few pickling cucumber plants with dill and other pickling spices, like fennel, garlic, or coriander? All of these grow well together and are easy to maintain in a container, as long as you provide a trellis for your cucumbers to crawl up as they mature. 

Companion Plantings to Avoid 

You can plant just about any kinds of plants together, but there are a few combinations you will want to avoid. 

Some plants have allelopathic properties, which means they release compounds and chemicals around them that are meant specifically to kill surrounding plants. In the wild, the goal of these properties would be to eliminate competition from weeds and other neighboring plants. However, when you’re growing plants in containers, that’s something you really don’t want to have to deal with. 

Other plants simply don’t play well with others because they have similar nutritional needs and can overcrowd a small space very easily. Some attract the same types of pests, meaning you’ll be doubling your risk of infestation by planting the two together. 

Avoid planting these combinations in containers:

  • Carrots with dill 
  • Beans with garlic
  • Onions with beans
  • Fennel with carrots
  • Tomatoes with potatoes
  • Potatoes with squash
  • Onions with peas 

How to Get Started with Gardening in Containers

Getting started with planting companion species in containers is easy. 

For starters, you are going to want to select the largest possible container. Small Containers not only dry out more quickly, but will easily become overcrowded if you are growing multiple types of plants. 

If you grow any kind of root crop, you’ll want a super deep container so that it can support the lengthy roots. The deeper the container, the better, because it usually requires less watering, too. 

Look into the specific lighting requirements of your plants, but remember that most vegetables require at least six hours of sunlight. Some leafy greens and most herbs, however, can get by with less. When you’re planting vegetables, fruits, and herbs of varying heights, remember that some of that allows plants to easily overshade the shorter ones, so account for this in your container placement, too. 

If you’re growing any kind of crawling or vining plant, be sure to install a trellis. This should be done before you plant to avoid damaging the fragile, developing seedlings. 

Choose a potting soil that is designed specifically for container plants. Don’t use soil from your garden, as it can be contaminated with pathogens that will harm your new plantings. 

Reasons to Utilize Companion Planting in Containers

Container gardening is a quick, easy way to save space while growing a ton of fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruits right on your doorstep. Not only will growing vegetables in containers help reduce your overall weeding and pest control chores, but it also takes up much less space and time than if you were to grow plants in a regular garden. 

The easiest way to utilize all the benefits of containers is to strategically place plants so that they complement and benefit each other. Companion planting in containers can not only reduce the rate of pest infestations and diseases, but it can also improve your overall yields.

With so many potential combinations to try, why not give osm of these companion planting container gardening ideas a try today? 

Start Square Foot Gardening With These Ideas

Start Square Foot Gardening With These Ideas

Whether you’re a traditional gardener or a newcomer, square foot gardening is a concept that has a lot to offer. Designed to help you make the most of your growing space, this model is taking the gardening world by storm. It offers tons of benefits and is relatively simple to implement. 

However, you shouldn’t get started without a little bit of background. Here’s everything you need to know to start your own square foot garden at home. 

Where Did the Idea of Square Foot Gardening Come From?

Square foot gardening, or the idea of incorporating intensive spacing and companion planting to get the most food possible out of limited space, is a concept coined by Mel Bartholomew. The author of Square Foot Gardening and an experienced civil engineer, Bartholomew developed the concept in 1981. However, it’s only recently begun to gain traction. 

As a seasoned urban planner, Bartholomew noted the inefficiencies of traditional single-row planting styles. Combining his city planning skills with his own green thumb, Bartholomew developed a method of producing a thriving garden no matter how little space you might have.

What Are the Benefits of Square Foot Gardening?

Grow a square foot garden, and you’ll reap the benefits almost immediately. This style of planting allows you to grow just as much food – if not more – in the same amount of space as traditional row- planted gardens. Because everything is planted in raised beds, you’ll be able to access the plants more easily. 

Square foot gardening makes it possible for gardeners to grow their own food regardless of how much space they might have – you don’t need a huge backyard. All you need is a balcony, patio, or small chunk of yard to get started. In many cases, wedding chores are nonexistent, meaning you don’t have to spend as much time or energy tending to your garden. 

Plus, since you’ll be growing all your food in a raised bed, you don’t have to tear up the soil to get started. You don’t need to damage the soil or do any tilling in order to get started. Square foot gardening is a quick way to start a new garden, making it a good choice for beginners. Plus, it can be done anywhere – even over pavement! – making it a good alternative for city dwellers.

You’ll get higher yields per square foot with your square foot garden. You can harvest more with less work and of course, less space.

How to Set Up a Square Foot Garden

Find the Perfect Growing Space

As with any garden, you will need to start by securing the ideal growing space. Even though you will be building or buying raised beds, you need to make sure the location you select is in a good spot. It should receive at least six hours of sunlight each day, be guarded against the wind, and be within reach of your watering system.

Once you have the ideal spot secured, go ahead and build or buy your raised bed boxes. The best raised beds for this task will be those that are about 4 feet by 4 feet in size. You can go larger if you’d like, but keep in mind that it may be difficult for you to reach the interior of the bed to cultivate your plants.

Some people line their beds with plastic before planting. This can help keep out weeds but does add an additional step to the beginning.

Add Soil

Choose a fertile, weed-free potting soil to add to your beds. For best results, mix together compost, peat moss, vermiculture, or other organic matter. It should be relatively well-draining, too.

Set Up Your Grid

Once your beds are filled with soil, you need to lay out your grid. The easiest way to do this is to make divides out of narrow strips of wood. These should be laid out in a uniform, square-foot design that is specifically 1-by-1 foot. You don’t have to make these yourself, either – you can purchase grids online that are premade and ready to go.

Plant Your Seeds

Next, add your seeds! Below, we will give you some options as to what to plant in each square. The methods of planting your seeds will be identical to the steps you’d follow if planting seeds in a traditional single-row garden layout. You can also start with seedlings if you’d prefer.

Care For Your Plants

Nothing new here – once your plants are in place, it’s time to care for your crops. Water, fertilize and weed regularly – just as you would with a typical garden. 

Square Foot Gardening Options

One-Per-Square 

The one-per-square layout is the easiest way to make use of the square foot gardening method. To do this, form a single hole in the center of the square and then plant your seeds as normal. The plants that work best when planted in this style or those that require a bit of room to sprawl and don’t benefit from dense plantings, such as okra, kale, eggplant, corn, and celery. 

Two-Per-Square

In this technique, you will plant two seeds side by side with a bit of space in between. You will also add a support trellis. The best plants for this method are vining options including cantaloupe, watermelons, winter squash, and cucumbers.

Four-Per-Square

With the four-per-square method, you’ll plant a seed or a seedling at each of the four corners. These should be equal distances apart from each other and form the border of the grid. These plants don’t have to be planted four-per-square (you can also plant them in a one-per-square fashion) but this method will allow you to produce more food. Good options include basil, garlic, leeks, onions, lettuce, radishes, and summer squash.

Eight-Per-Square

In this method, you will plant in a grid-like pattern within the square space, forming a square-shaped border. You can plant quite densely with this model, but again, you don’t have to plant as many plants if you don’t want to – it will simply allow you to grow more food. 

Good options for this model include spinach, turnips, tomatoes (choose varieties that don’t require cages), onions, beets, green beans, and cilantro.

Sixteen-Per-Square

This model is best only for plants that don’t require very much space. Make sure the seeds are equidistant from each other as well as from the edge of the grid to prevent overcrowding. You will need to thin these plants later on, but this dense model is a good option for plants like carrots, parsnips, and radishes. 

Challenges of Square Foot Gardening

Need to Keep Height in Mind

Be mindful of the mature heights of all the plants in your square foot garden. If you have short plants, like basil, in a corner of the bed, they should not be shaded by taller ones, like tomatoes. It’s perfectly fine to plant these species close to each other, but you need to keep sunlight requirements in mind. 

Avoid Monocultures 

Try not to just plant one species of plant in your square foot garden. It’s better to choose a variety of mutually beneficial plants. If you only plant one kind of plant in such close proximity to others of the same type, you run the risk of inviting pests and diseases. 

Expense

There are some startup costs to be considered when you build a square foot garden. As with any raised bed, you will need to purchase building materials (or the beds themselves) along with soil to fill them up. 

Overcrowding

There are some plants that need lots of space to flourish, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. You can easily grow these plants using the square foot gardening model, but you need to do a bit more planning to make sure they have room to sprawl.

Similarly, there are some perennials that aren’t a great idea for square foot gardening because they require so much room. For example, full-grown asparagus ferns will tip over and crush other plants, while rhubarb and artichokes can easily crowd out your other plantings. Keep these out of your square foot garden for the best results.

Insufficient Depths

At most, the beds you build for your square foot garden will only be about six to twelve inches deep. Some plants need depths much more than this so that their roots can extend all the way down into the soil below. Make sure you research the types of plants you decide to grow to ensure that square foot gardening is the right choice for their unique needs. 

Need for Maintenance

A square foot garden is often easier to maintain than any other type of garden. However, that doesn’t mean it’s totally carefree. You will still need to water, and you may also need to weed occasionally. It can be a bit more challenging to weed if unwanted plants spring up in your beds – since the plants are grown so close together, it can be tough to remove them once their roots get established. 

You will also need to water your square foot garden more often. The soil in raised beds has a tendency to dry out more quickly than the soil in traditional beds. It can also be harder to rewet if it dries out – you may need to water every single day in the summer. Installing soaker hoses or another type of drip irrigation can be a good way to alleviate this.

Is Square Foot Gardening Right for You? 

Square foot gardening is a fantastic gardening method for home gardeners who are short on space – or short on time. While there are some challenges to be aware of, there are plenty of simple solutions to make this space-saving gardening method work for just about anyone.

6 Simple Ways To Preserve Zucchini

6 Simple Ways To Preserve Zucchini

Zucchini is, without a doubt, one of the easiest vegetables you can grow. Unfortunately, with that ease comes a question – what in the world are you going to do with all of the zucchini you harvest?

Zucchini is the plant that keeps on giving, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by a bountiful harvest. If you just can’t figure out what to do with it, here are some methods of preserving zucchini that may help you out. 

Freezing Zucchini

Freezing is one of the most popular methods of preserving zucchini. Not only can frozen zucchini be used in your favorite meals, but it can also be used in baking (zucchini bread, anyone?). 

You can freeze zucchini in several ways. One of the easiest ways to is to blanch and freeze zucchini halves. After they’ve been thawed, zucchini halves can be used for stuffing or baking. All you will need to do is let them thaw and then apply your favorite filling!

Another way you can preserve zucchini is to slice or dice it up before freezing. Zucchini that has been sliced in this way can be used for soups, stir fries, sautees, and even casseroles. Just keep them frozen until you’re ready to use them to prevent them from becoming a sloppy mess. 

You can also freeze shredded zucchini, which does not need to be blanched beforehand and will hold up remarkably well in frittatas, baked goods, and other recipes. You can even make a tasty, nutritious zucchini risotto! Just make sure you drain off the excess liquid after thawing the shredded pieces. 

Zucchini can be frozen as ready-made zoodles, too. Zucchini noodles are delicious and nutritious alternatives to your favorite pasta. You can use them frozen but need to avoid overcooking them. 

Finally, zucchini puree is an option to consider. It is the perfect addition to soups, smoothies, sauces, and baked goods. It can be used in any baked goods recipe that calls for it, too!

Dehydrating Zucchini

Dehydrated zucchini takes up minimal space and is a great alternative for preserving zucchini if you don’t have a lot of freezer space. When dehydrated, four pounds of zucchini (or one large zucchini, in other words) will only take up one pint jar. 

To dehydrate zucchini, slice it into thin rings. You can choose to leave the skin on or to peel it – the choice is yours. Place the rings on the racks of your dehydrator and process them for four hours, or until they are crisp and brown. 

After zucchini has been dehydrated and stored, it will last for many months. You can add dehydrated zucchini to boiling water when you add pasta, as this will rehydrate the zucchini and make for a delicious sauce. 

Pickled Zucchini 

Pickled zucchini can be stored on its own, or you can add some other vegetables like sweet bell peppers and onions for a delicious relish. Zucchini relish is sweet yet tart, possessing a lovely tang that will really spruce up your typical sandwiches, burgers, and salads. 

For four pints of zucchini relish, or pickled zucchini, you will need about four cups of zucchini, two cups of peppers, and two cups of onions. You will also need 3 ½ cups sugar, ¼ cup pickling salt, 1 Tbsp celery, 2 tsp mustard, and two cups of apple cider vinegar. 

Begin by chopping your vegetables. Sprinkle salt over the vegetable and let them stand for two hours. After two hours have passed, drain them and rinse them well. Add your spices, vinegar, and sugar to a large pot, bringing it to a low simmer before you add your vegetables. Stir and then let the mixture simmer for another ten minutes. 

Once everything is combined, you can choose to process your relish in a water bath canner or to put it in the refrigerator. If you can your jars, you will want to process them for ten minutes and allow them to cool for at least 12 hours before storing them. 

Zucchini Pickles

Not to be confused with pickled zucchini, making zucchini pickles is a fantastic method of food preservation. All you will need is some onions, turmeric, and a few other species for a delicious brine. 

To make zucchini pickles, start by washing your zucchini, trimming, and discarding the blossoms. Cut the zucchini into ¼ inch slices and place them in a large bowl before salting them. Let them sit for two hours before draining and rinsing the slices with water. This will help remove excess liquid. 

While you are waiting for your zucchini slices to dry out, you can prepare your canning equipment. You will want to wash and boil your jars, keeping both the jars and lids warm until you have your ingredients ready. 

Your brine will consist of three cups of apple cider vinegar, two cups of cane sugar, and ⅓ cup canning salt. You will also add ground mustard, turmeric, celery seed, and black peppercorn, to taste. 

Combine all of your brine ingredients in a large pot. Heat to a boil. Add your zucchini and bring the pot back up to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes. After the mixture is thoroughly heated, ladle your zucchini and brine into hot jars. Leave about ½ inch of headspace. 

Center your lids on the jars and screw them on tightly. Place the jars in a water bath canner and adjust the water level once the jars are inside to make sure the water is two inches above the jars. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Process the pickles for ten minutes. 

Let the jars cool, then label and date them before storing. The cooling process should take about 24 hours. 

Cellaring Zucchini

If you have a root cellar, you may be able to store zucchini without doing anything to it at all. To do this, you will need young, unblemished zucchinis. They should be wrapped in tissue paper or layered in shallow containers surrounded by straw. This will increase their humidity. Store the fruits in a cool basement or root cellar. You can put them in containers such as plastic garbage cans or storage bins to do this. 

Once you put the zucchini in a container, you will want to cover them with at least one foot of insulating material, like straw. Each layer of zucchini should be separated by straw to reduce moisture, too. When stored in this way, zucchini will last for several weeks at a time. 

Salted Zucchini

You can store brined zucchini without having to do too much at all. To do this, select zucchini that are small and ripe. Wash them and place them in a canning jar before covering them with a 10% brine. Make sure there’s at least an inch of headspace.

How do you make a 10% brine, you might ask? It’s simple. All you need to do is stir six tablespoons of pickling salt into a quart of water until it has completely dissolved. 

Next, use a small plate to cover the vegetables and keep them submerged. Place the container or a tray and store it at  65 degrees for up to four weeks. You should then transfer it to a collocation, like a refrigerator. Check it at least once a week if white scum appears, remove it, as it can create off flavors.  You will want to keep your vegetables completely submerged during this process. 

Most salted zucchini can be stored for six months. You will just need to soak them in cold water for twelve hours before using – then you can use them in any recipe calling for fresh zucchini. 

Can I Can Zucchini?

One of the only ways that preserving zucchini cannot be done is by canning. You cannot can summer squashes because they become too soft during the canning process, which leads to inconsistent heat distribution that renders the finished product unsafe. 

Even if you have a pressure canner, it’s not recommended that you can zucchini or any other summer squash. Instead, stick to one of these popular methods of preserving zucchini – with so many methods to choose from, you really shouldn’t feel the need to try an unsafe canning recipe!

6 Ways To Preserve Potatoes

6 Ways To Preserve Potatoes

Whether you grow your own potatoes or just got a great deal on a bumper crop at the supermarket, preserving potatoes is a great way to help them last long into the winter months. Considered one of the best vegetables for root cellar storage, potatoes have the ability to last for months without you having to do anything at all. 

Potatoes are the quintessential late summer crop, offering a ton of nutritional benefits and a lot of versatility in the kitchen, too. If you aren’t already preserving potatoes, you’re missing out!

However, there are some other methods of preserving potatoes that you need to know about, too. 

Storing Potatoes in a Root Cellar

Potatoes can easily be stored in a root cellar (or even, in some cases, a basement). It’s the most common method of preserving potatoes because it involves the least amount of labor. 

It can be difficult to store potatoes that are harvested in the early summer, but those that are harvested in the fall can easily be stored in a root cellar. Keep them in a cold – but not freezing – environment and you will find that they last for months. 

Cure your potatoes by placing them in moderate temperatures and dry conditions for about two weeks. Then, you can move them into the cellar. It’s recommended that you store your potatoes in shallow layers so you can watch for signs of rot. Keep them dark, too, as too much light causes them to sprout. You may have good results covering your potatoes in straw to protect and insulate them, too. 

Preserving Potatoes by Canning

Preserving your potatoes by canning them is one of the most popular methods of preserving potatoes. To do this, you will want to can them in a pressure canner. You cannot use a water bath canner, as this won’t reach high enough temperatures to kill soil-borne bacteria. 

About 20 lbs of potatoes will yield you a pressure canner full of tubers – usually about 20 pints if you have a double stacking unit. Make sure you wash the potatoes carefully and then peel them. There’s some debate about whether you actually have to peel before canning, but it’s best if you do to remove all the dirt and bacteria hiding in the nooks and crannies of the potatoes. 

Chop the potatoes into pieces and then parboil them for a few minutes. Drain the water and rinse the potatoes before spooning them into clean mason jars. Fill them with hot water, leaving about an inch of headspace. Wipe the rims and then add clean lids and rings. 

Pressure can your potatoes for about 40 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure, or according to the instructions that come with your canner. You may need to adjust for altitude. 

Freezing Cubed Potatoes

There are a few different ways you can freeze your potatoes, but the easiest way is to just freeze them cubed. Freezing is a good method of preserving potatoes if you had a huge potato harvest but either don’t want to bust out the pressure canner or if you have potatoes with some brown spots that won’t hold up in regular cold storage.

Start by selecting potatoes directly from the garden. Peel and wash them, cutting out any bad spots. Cut them up into uniform cubes.  Then, blanch your potatoes for a few minutes (usually about three to five minutes, depending on the size of the potato). 

After blanching, dunk the potato in an ice bath for ten minutes. Then drain and rinse them before packing them into containers. You can use any kind of container you’d like, but make sure they are freezer-safe. Leave about half an inch of headspace to allow room for expansion. Then, seal and freeze. Frozen potatoes usually last about 12 months. The resulting potatoes will be great for soups, stews, and even roasts. 

Frozen French Fries, Hash Browns, and Tater Tots 

If you’re sick of buying storebought french fries at the grocery store, you might want to think about freezing your own homemade fries, tater tots, and hash browns. It’s super easy to make your own and it doesn’t take as much time as you’d think, either. 

Russet potatoes work best for homemade frozen french fries, but you can really use any type that suits your fancy. You will need about two pounds, along with eight cups of water, a tablespoon of salt, and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. 

Start by peeling and cutting up the potatoes into half an inch-thick sticks. Then, blanch the potatoes for about two minutes. Dunk the blanched potato in an ice bath. 

Drain your chilled potatoes and lay them out in a single layer to dry. Toss the slices in oil and then place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze overnight. The next day, transfer the frozen french fries to a freezer-safe container. That’s all there is to it!

You can also do this with your favorite tater tot or hashbrown recipe – the key point is to freeze your potatoes overnight on baking trays after prepping them. You don’t want to freeze immediately after cooking, because the individual pieces will become a big, clumpy mess in the container.

Dehydrating Potatoes

For those of us who love those tasty dehydrated potato snack sticks at the store, this idea is for you! You can also preserve potatoes to be used in scalloped or au gratin potatoes. To do this, begin by washing your potatoes and cutting out any blemishes. You don’t have to peel, but you can. 

Then, slice your potatoes to about an eighth of an inch thick. You can also choose to shred the potatoes, depending on how you intend to use them later on. As soon as you slice them, put them in a bowl of water to prevent browning.

Blanch your potatoes for four to six minutes. Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and then place them on a dehydrator tray so that they do not overlap. Dry for 135 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 10 hours (often, eight is all it takes). 

Fermented Potatoes

Yes, you can even ferment potatoes! This can actually be done with any type of potato or sweet potato. Potatoes can be fermented raw or even after they’ve been cooked. The best way to do this is by using a basic brine or even sauerkraut juice. 

Lacto Fermented potatoes will offer you plenty of probiotics and prebiotics. You can do this to raw potatoes, eliminating a ton of prep work on your part and also making it possible for you to consume zero net carbs (but plenty of fiber). 

Use filtered or distilled water to ferment your potatoes – tap water can contain fluoride or chlorine, which blocks fermentation. Do not use iodized salt when making the brine solution, either. 

Simply place four cups of water into a jar, followed by your desired level of salt (often just a tablespoon). Cut up the potatoes, unpeeled, into half-inch cubes. Put them in the water. Cover the jar with a paper towel or piece of cheesecloth. 

Over the next 48 hours, the water will become cloudy and you’ll see small bubbles – this indicates that fermentation has begun. If you notice any white film on the top, simply remove it and discard it. They should be eaten up within a week. 

Try Various Methods of Preserving Potatoes

Depending on how big your potato harvest is, you may want to try all or just a few of these handy recipes. There’s plenty to do with your potatoes – you can even freeze the leftovers of your favorite recipe to be reheated later. Potatoes freeze and reheat remarkably well. 

Whatever you do, try a few – after all, you don’t want to get bored eating canned or dehydrated potatoes all the time!

Preserving Meat with Salt

Preserving Meat with Salt

If you raise your own animals for meat, you likely know how frustrating it can be to not have enough space to store the finished product. Sure, you can always stash packages of meat in your freezer – but eventually, you’re going to run out of room! 

Plus, if you don’t have electricity – or are prone to frequent power outages – you may not feel comfortable storing hundreds of pounds of meat in the freezer. 

Luckily, there are alternatives that you can turn to in order to keep your meat fresh and ready to eat. Preserving meat with salt is one of the best (and most often overlooked) methods of food preservation out there. Not only that, but it’s also easy to do! Here are the basics.

Why Preserving Meat with Salt is the Way to Go

Salt preservation is one of the most classic and time-honored methods of preserving meat. There are several processes, too, any of which can work when used in your own kitchen. Jerky, for example, is a method of drying meat that requires you to salt it heavily before the dehydration process. Ham and corned beef also rely on salt in order to cure the final product. 

Salt works well at preserving meat because as salt levels increase in a solution, the ability for microorganisms like bacteria and fungi to grow, thrive, and survive decreases rapidly. When you include the recommended amounts of salt for pickling and dry salting your food, microbial growth simply doesn’t happen. 

Salt preservation can guard against all kinds of bacteria, including Clostridium botulinum, the chief organisms responsible for the fatal illness known as botulism. 

Salt also adds flavor. Sodium chloride, or your typical table salt, is usually used as a primary ingredient to remove bacteria. Other salts are also used for meat preservation, too, including nitrates and nitrites. salts. These help to prevent the oxidation of fat in the meat when it is cured. 

Preserving Meat With Salt: 3 Ways

There are three main ways you can preserve meat with salt: you can make a brine solution, you can use a smoker, or you can make rubbing salts. Here’s how to do it. 

Brine Solution Method of Preserving Meat

Start by preparing a 14% solution of pickling salt – you can add sugar for flavor if you’d like, but stick with brown sugar and don’t add more than 3% to your overall ratios. 

You can use any type of meat you’d like, but lean cuts are preferred. Start by slicing it into strips about half an inch thick or less. Then, soak them in your brine for five minutes. You do not need to discard the brine solution. 

Put your strips of meat into a colander and let the excess brine drain off. Then, hang your meat strips on a line made out of twine. You can use clips to do this or fashion your own homemade hooks. This line should be located outside in a dry, sunny area. Plan ahead for your drying, as you won’t want wet weather to get in your way. 

You will need to cure your meat when humidity is less than 30%. Consider putting a cage around the meat to keep insects and hungry animals away!

Using a Smoker

If you read the last method and thought, “Great. That won’t work – my humidity never drops below 30% where I live!” you’re not alone. Luckily, you can use a smoker to dry and preserve your meat instead. 

To do this, follow the same steps as you would above – but stop before you get to the hanging stage. Instead, place the meat on the grilling surface of the smoker. Cure the meat for 24 hours at 100 to 120 degrees (it may take less time, depending on the moisture content and thickness of your meat slices). 

Dry Curing Meat with Rubbing Salts

If you have dense cuts like shoulders, hams, and roasts that you want to cure, preserving meat with rubbing salts is a great way to go. You can use just plain old pickling salt or you can add enhancing spices like mustard, sage, or basil. Just rub the spices on first and then apply the salt. 

You will need to apply salt at a ratio of 1 ½ cups of salt per pound of meat. Half will be rubbed onto the meat at the beginning, and the other half will go on at the end. After rubbing the first ¾ cup of salt onto the meat, let it hang in a room that sits at temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees. About five days later, you can rub the rest of the salt on. 

This is a long, time-consuming process  – you will need to budget for five days of drying time for every inch of meat. If the meat has bones, you’ll need to give yourself even more time – usually about seven days per inch.

Your Brine

No matter which of the three methods above you select, you will need to have a brine solution (with the exception of the latter, in which you can usually get by with just a salt rub – although a brine can also be used). 

To make your brine, you will usually need to mix about half a pound of salt with a quarter cup of sugar. This will then be added to a quart and a half of water. You can add herbs or spices, too, and remember that you will need to add your nitrite, too. You can use pink salt or you can use celery, lettuce, or spinach extract (all of these naturally contain sodium nitrite). 

That’s all there is to it! In most cases, you can reuse the brine between batches of meat.

General Tips for Preserving Meat with Salt

When you’re engaging in any kind of meat preservation with salt, there are some general guidelines you should follow. 

First, you should always use lean meat. The best meat for salt preservation will be the best cuts overall. Try not to use overly fatty meats, as the fat will have a more difficult time being penetrated by the salt solution and will, therefore, become rancid more quickly. 

If you’re working with beef, aim for round or brisket cuts. With pork, you’ll want to rely on the ham, belly, or shoulders. Let the meat cool before you salt cure it – usually, refrigerator temperatures will suffice, although the perfect level is just about freezing. 

When you cure your meat with salt, you will want to keep them at around 35 to 50 degrees for large cuts. If you are working with corned beef, refrigerator temperatures will be needed. However, if you are dehydrating meat for jerky or other salted and dried products, you can do this outside in hot temperatures (as long as they are not humid). Too much moisture in the air can ruin your dehydrated meat products.

You should also rinse your meat before you preserve it. This will help get any surface bacteria off the meat and will prepare it for preservation. Use cold or lukewarm water. 

Why You Should Consider Preserving Meat with Salt

Using salt to preserve meat was a common practice until the 19th century and later, when refrigeration made it largely unnecessary. In many places in the world, salted fish and meat are still consumed on a regular basis, with these foods forming the staple of a diet in places like North Africa, Russia, and the Arctic. 

When you preserve meat with salt, you won’t have to refrigerate it or freeze it – meaning you can save space, time, and money in your homestead kitchen.