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Edible Garden, Outdoor Plants, SUMMER, FALL, GROW YOUR OWN, GARDEN CARE, Blog

Preserving the Harvest

September 14, 2023

canned foods


As cooler days arrive, there’s no better time to harvest and preserve your edible garden. From vibrant tomatoes to flavorful herbs and all produce in-between, preserving and using your harvest year around is one of the best rewards for seasons of work.  


Find step by step guides below for harvesting and preserving your harvest:  


The timing of tomato harvest plays a pivotal role in their taste and texture. To identify the ideal moment: 

  • Color: Look for rich, consistent coloring that corresponds to the variety. Red tomatoes, for instance, should exhibit a deep, uniform red hue.
  • Feel: Gently squeezing the tomato should yield slightly without undue softness. Avoid extremely firm or overly hard fruits.
  • Sheen: A glossy skin is often a sign of ripe tomatoes.

When plucking tomatoes, use clean garden shears or scissors to snip the stem just above the calyx, minimizing potential damage and reducing the risk of introducing diseases. 


Preserving tomatoes ensures that the taste of summer lingers long past its departure. Among enthusiasts two popular preservation methods stand out: 

  • Canning: Blanch tomatoes briefly in boiling water, then cool them in an ice bath to loosen the skin. Peel, core, and pack them into sanitized jars. Add a touch of lemon juice or citric acid for safekeeping and process the jars in a water bath. These canned tomatoes serve as a versatile ingredient for various dishes year-round.
  • Freezing: A simpler approach involves washing and drying the tomatoes before cutting them into halves or quarters. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen tomato portions into resealable freezer bags. These frozen gems effortlessly enhance cooked recipes like soups and sauces.

Like Tomatoes, knowing when to pick cucumbers is essential to their taste and flavor, here are the best practice tips for picking:  

  • Size: Opt for cucumbers that are about 6 to 8 inches in length for the best taste and texture. Larger cucumbers may have tougher skin and more seeds.
  • Color: Cucumbers should have a vibrant, uniform color. Depending on the variety, this could be deep green or pale yellow.
  • Firmness: Gently squeeze the cucumber. It should be firm but yielding slightly to pressure. Avoid cucumbers that are overly hard or soft.

Ensure you use garden shears or a sharp knife to cut while leaving a small portion of the stem attached. 


There is one main way to preserve cucumbers and that’s to pickle them. Find our blog How to Make Pickles at Home 


Picking corn at the right moment is key to experiencing its peak sweetness. Here’s how to determine when your corn is ready for harvest: 

  • Silk Appearance: Look at the corn’s silky threads, or “silks.” When they turn brown and start to dry out, it’s a sign that the corn is maturing.
  • Kernel Development: Gently peel back the husk and examine the kernels. They should be plump, closely spaced, and milky in appearance.
  • Firmness: Squeeze a kernel between your fingernails. If a milky substance spurts out, the corn is at its prime. If the liquid is clear, the corn needs more time to mature.

When harvesting, grasp the ear firmly and snap it downward, away from the stalk. This ensures a clean break and prevents damage to the stock. 


Freezing corn allows you to capture its sweetness and crispness, making it a versatile ingredient for various dishes. Follow these steps to freeze corn: 

  • Blanching: Remove the husks and silks, then blanch the corn in boiling water for a few minutes. This helps preserve the flavor, color, and texture.
  • Cooling: After blanching, immerse the corn in an ice water bath to halt the cooking process. This ensures the corn remains crisp.
  • Cutting: Carefully cut the kernels from the cob using a sharp knife. To prevent the kernels from scattering, place the cob upright in a wide bowl before slicing.
  • Packaging: Portion the cut corn into resealable freezer bags, squeezing out excess air to prevent freezer burn. Label the bags with the date for easy identification.
  • Freezing: Lay the bags flat in the freezer to allow the corn to freeze individually. Once frozen, you can stack the bags to save space.

To harvest and maximize flavor, pick herbs in the morning after dew evaporates. Snip healthy stems just above a leaf node using clean, sharp scissors or shears. This encourages new growth and helps maintain the plant’s shape. For woody herbs like rosemary and thyme, trim the tips of the stems. 


Drying herbs is a time-honored method to preserve their flavors. Tie small bunches of herbs together and hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Once dry and crumbly, remove leaves from stems and store in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. A food dehydrator can speed up the process. Either keep herbs in their original form or crumble for cooking!  


Freezing herbs retains their fresh flavors and vibrant colors. Blanch herbs briefly in boiling water, then in ice water to preserve color and flavor. Finely chop or keep them whole, then place in ice cube trays with water or olive oil. Once frozen, transfer the herb cubes to a resealable freezer bag. Drop a herb cube into your dish while cooking for an instant burst of fresh flavor.  


Whether dried or frozen, these methods allow you to carry the essence of your garden into the colder months, infusing your dishes with the taste of the growing season. 

Your gardening journey has transformed into a flavorful adventure as you master the art of harvesting and preserving. From pickled cucumbers and frozen herbs to dried tomatoes and preserved corn, each method encapsulates the essence of your garden for months to come.