A boom in canning for backyard vegetable gardens

Gardeners preserve their bountiful produce for winter meals.

By , The Hartford Courant

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    Good eating ahead: Canning produce from the garden lets a family eat home-grown fruits and vegetables year-round.
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Just as the fruit follows the flower, a big increase this year in backyard vegetable gardening has morphed into a harvest-season boomlet for home canning and freezing.

“I definitely have gotten more calls from people who are canning and freezing,” says Lisa Phillips, a University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System program assistant in the school’s department of nutritional sciences.

Meanwhile, canning supplies are flying off the shelves of retailers.

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“We are selling a lot more canning stuff this year than last year,” says Ruth R. Kosswig, assistant manager at Agway in Southington, Conn. She traces the increase directly to big sales of vegetable plants and seeds last spring.

“Now they want to keep it. They are canning; they are preserving,” she says.

Agway quickly sold out of its stock of canning jars, lids, books, and water bath canners and had to reorder. Even the additional stock “is pretty wiped out now.”

Some people are canning or otherwise preserving foods as a way to save money on food costs, though Diane Wright Hirsch, extension educator in food safety, says that the costs of electricity or fuel and canning supplies will often negate any real savings.

But, she says, it appears that the real motivation this year is a desire to preserve fresh, local foods, often organically grown, not necessarily to save money.

“If people want to do this because they want more control over their food, that makes more sense,” Ms. Hirsch says.

The extension specialists say it is important for canners to ensure that food is preserved safely.

“I’ve had a couple of people want to can green beans in a water-bath canner. You can’t,” Ms. Phillips says.

Hirsch recommends that people looking for information check website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation at www.uga.edu/nchfp.

“You can find pretty much all the basic information you would need there,” she says.

- Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service; (c) 2008, The Hartford Courant.

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