Ask Eartha: A can-do attitude preserves bounty of summer |

Ask Eartha: A can-do attitude preserves bounty of summer

Dear Eartha,

I am a gardener, and I love the money I save during the summer months by growing my own produce. I also have an abundance of food that I never know what to do with. Is there a way I can preserve and make use of the fresh food that I grow?

— Maggie, Breckenridge

The average American consumes over 10 pounds of chemical additives annually through preserved foods, according to Forbes magazine.

Great question Maggie and an important one, too! You certainly don’t want all those wonderful veggies to go to waste. An important aspect of gardening is the harvest at the end of the season, preserving and sharing all that abundance. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, food preservation has “… permeated every culture at nearly every moment in time.”

Drying, freezing, fermenting, pickling, curing, jamming and canning are all food preservation techniques that have pretty much remained the same. These techniques allowed people to form communities by staying in one place, whereas the hunter-gatherer way of life required people to be constantly on the move in search of new sources of food. One could argue that the sharing and celebration of food is the main component to community formation.

The environmental side to canning your own food is good ol’ self-sufficiency. Since most of our vegetables and fruits are seasonal, why aren’t we shopping for them in season? The food system is now so integrated that transportation moves food from long distances for the convenience of the consumer, allowing for seasonal produce at any time of year. By canning your own food from the farmers market, backyard garden or in-season selection at your local market, you help save the wasteful use of petroleum for food transportation.

Preserving your own food at home can be beneficial to your health as well. The average American consumes over 10 pounds of chemical additives annually through preserved foods, according to Forbes magazine. These include aspartame, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, sodium nitrate, artificial colorings and more. Although additives increase food shelf life, they have also been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and a variety of cancers. Bisphenol A (BPA) is another known hazardous chemical. It has a negative impact on brain function, prostate glands, as wells as behavior in young children, infants and even fetuses. Yet it is still readily used in the epoxy resin found in metal-based food and drink packaging.

Whether you are canning, drying, pickling or fermenting, you are gaining food independence and reaping the numerous benefits that go along with it. Don’t worry, whether you are an old pro, out of touch or a total newbie, preserving your own food can be a fun and rewarding way to celebrate the changing season.

Take a peek at that grocery list. Many of the foods we eat on a regular basis are preserved. Ketchup, soup, juice, canned vegetables, fruit cups, yogurt and so much more. Most items that we buy at the grocery store used to be made at home. Why not start taking that control back? It’s easy to start slow and add a couple of preserved goodies to your to-do list every year. It’s worth every minute and can involve the whole family.

If you would like to learn more about food preservation, sign up for one of HC3’s food preservation workshops. Come to Jams, Jellies, and Preserves held on Sept. 22 and Intro to Pickling held on Oct. 13. If you would like to join in a community meal to celebrate the harvest, join HC3 at Vinny’s on Sept. 17 for our sixth annual Harvest Dinner. Call HC3 at (970) 668-5703 for more information.

If you have excess food from your garden and you don’t have time to preserve it, feel free to place the veggies in one of the coolers at the local community gardens or drop them off at the HC3 office on Frisco Main Street. The coolers are picked up twice a week and all food is given to families that need it.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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