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Best Books for Preserving Food (and Growing It All Year Long)

In the world of gardening and farming, there are three steps from the seed to the plate: Planting. Harvesting. And…Preserving. So if you’re interested in extending seasons, then preserving your natural bounty is in your best interest.  If you have a larder, pantry, root cellar or chest freezer–I’m talking to you. Think jam, jelly, pickles, poached pears, chutney, frozen peas, blueberries, and homemade cheese. Make your garden last through the coldest of winters. And for the hard core gardeners out there, you can build coldframes and hoophouses to grow-your-own, even during a snowstorm!

Here are some books you may want on your shelf come preservation time (in no particular order):

1. Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante 

Translated into English, and with a new foreword by Deborah Madison, this book deliberately ignores freezing and high-temperature canning in favor of methods that are superior because they are more nutritious and energy efficient. As Eliot Coleman says, “Food preservation techniques can be divided into two categories: the modern scientific methods that remove the life from food, and the natural ‘poetic’ methods that maintain or enhance the life in food. The poetic techniques produce . . . foods that have been celebrated for centuries and are considered gourmet delights today.”

2. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz

The book covers vegetable ferments such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and sour pickles; bean ferments including miso, tempeh, dosas, and idli; dairy ferments including yogurt, kefir, and basic cheesemaking (as well as vegan alternatives); sourdough bread-making; other grain fermentations from Cherokee, African, Japanese, and Russian traditions; extremely simple wine- and beer-making (as well as cider-, mead-, and champagne-making) techniques; and vinegar-making. With nearly 100 recipes, this is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging fermentation cookbook ever published.

3. How to Store Your Garden Produce: The Key to Self-Sufficiency by Piers Warren

Why is storing your garden produce the key to self-sufficiency? Because with less than an acre of garden you can grow enough produce to feed a family of four for a year. But without proper storage, most of it will go to waste since much of the produce ripens simultaneously in the summer. Learn simple and enjoyable techniques for storing your produce and embrace the wonderful world of self-sufficiency. In the A-Z list of produce, each entry includes recommended varieties, suggested methods of storage, and a number of recipes. Everything from how to make your own cider and pickled gherkins to how to string onions and dry your own apple rings. You will know where your food has come from, you will save money, there will be no packaging, and you’ll be eating tasty local food while feeling very good about it!

4. The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman

Coleman offers clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods in this complete, meticulous, and illustrated guide. Readers have access to all the techniques that have proven to produce higher-quality crops on Coleman’s own farm. His painstaking research and experimentation with more than 30 different crops will be valuable to small farmers, homesteaders, and experienced home gardeners who seek to expand their production seasons. A passionate advocate for the revival of small-scale sustainable farming, Coleman provides a practical model for supplying fresh, locally grown produce during the winter season, even in climates where conventional wisdom says it “just can’t be done.”

5. The Polytunnel Handbook by Andy McKee and Mark Gatter

The Polytunnel Handbook looks at all aspects of polytunnel use, from planning your purchase to harvesting the rewards, and includes a step-by-step guide detailing how polytunnels are put up and maintained. There are chapters on developing healthy soil and preventing pests, and a jargon-free guide to the range of often mystifying accessories that many tunnel retailers offer. In addition, the do-it-yourself enthusiast will find a full set of instructions for building a polytunnel from scratch, and the authors explain how to keep your polytunnel productive in every season.

6. From Asparagus to Zucchini, Third Edition: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce by Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture

Organized by vegetable—fifty-three in all—each section includes nutritional, historical, and storage information, as well as cooking tips. With more than 420 original recipes created, tested, and enjoyed by chefs, CSA members, and farmers, you’ll never be without a delicious recipe to make the most of the season’s bounty. The best part is that lesser-known vegetables like burdock and kohlrabi have more recipes, not fewer! Also included are essays that address the larger picture of sustainable agriculture, how our food choices fit into our economy, environment, and community, and more information on home food preservation and how to help kids appreciate—and even eat—their vegetables. With this book, prepare to awaken and reaffirm your dedication to enjoying the unique flavors of local foods while nourishing the life of sustainable family farms.

7.  And a sneak preview for organic farmers out there…To be released end of September…The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff—and Making a Profit by Richard Wiswall
Watch the 4-minute version:
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Watch the 30-minute version:
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