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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why Preserve Produce?

Some preserved produce I made
Preserving produce has been the task of gardeners (and their wives) for millennia. Produce was grown in the warmer months and needed to last throughout the cold, winter months where little, if anything grew. With gardening, often much food is ripe at the same time, too much to be able to use it all at once without it spoiling, unless some is preserved for later.

A reader asked me the following, good question in the comments, which I  felt deserved a full post in response.
"I'm not sure I understand why you have to buy seasonal vegetables and fruits in bulk. I like to buy whats in season and its usually the freshest and cheapest. If it's not there a few weeks later, I buy something else. Is it because you don't have a car and have to limit your trips? I applaud your energy in getting this all done, in any case."
If I'm not a farmer or gardener, and instead purchase my vegetables, why don't I just buy "normal" amounts of in season produce instead of buying a lot at once, and why do I preserve my produce?

I go shopping for all our needs once a month for many reasons; I've blogged about them before. In short, the more often you shop, the more frequently one enters the grocery store, the more money will be spent. Dividing a shop into two trips doesn't make you spend half the money each trip. The total of two "half trips" will be more than one "complete trip". Secondly, the more trips to the grocery, the more money spent on transportation, whether gas and parking, or bus fare and delivery.

I preserve my produce for a few reasons, among them wanting them to last between grocery trips, but also because I never want to pay full price for produce if I can help it. I got most of the produce this past Tuesday for 5-12 cents a pound- if I can buy a huge amount now at these insanely low prices and preserve them for when these prices aren't available, then I've accomplished what I hoped to do.

I used to just buy whatever was a loss leader that trip (my shop always has at least a few veggies each week on sale) but I remember this past summer a heat wave damaged lots of produce crops, tremendously upping the price of the things that survived. There were no decently priced fruits or veggies for a long while. Since then, I've started buying excess low priced produce and preserving, so I never have to pay full price, and especially not sky high prices, ever again. Next heat wave- I'm raiding my stockpile.

Do you buy produce in bulk and preserve? Why or why not?
Do you preserve any vegetables?
What is your method of fruit and vegetable shopping? How frequently do you do it, and what do you usually buy? Only seasonal produce or whatever piques your interest?

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