In a recent post we wrote about how an in-home freeze-dryer can save you thousands of dollars a year by allowing you to reduce food waste and take advantage of the abundance of harvests. Before you can have a harvest however, you have to plan for it. Time and time again we hear gardeners say they’ve reduced the size of their gardens because their families just can’t consume the bounty of vegetables a big garden produces. In an era where food prices are skyrocketing (with no end in sight), a significant portion of the world going hungry, and the food supply chain being consistently disrupted by drought and natural disasters, it seems a shame to waste good soil just because there isn’t anyone to eat what can be produced.

The solution to the paradox, of course, is the ability to preserve what you can’t eat so it lasts well beyond the harvest. Freeze-drying is the safest, simplest way to do it. With the advent of spring, gardeners everywhere are getting their plots ready and are planning what to grow. Instead of scaling back, consider scaling up with plans to freeze-dry, or otherwise preserve, the extra to use in the winter or in an emergency.

Speaking of emergency food, if you’re building an emergency food supply be aware that commercially packaged freeze-dried food may include ingredients you don’t want in your food such as sodium nitrite, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed corn gluten, trans fats, methylcyclopropene, astaxanthin, corn starch, food colorings, olestra and more. (the computer’s spellcheck is having a field day with this list. We have a rule against eating anything the computer doesn’t know how to spell!)

You can freeze-dry virtually any food including meat, dairy and any fruits or vegetables. Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables that freeze-dry well, and can be used later as meals in themselves, snacks or as ingredients during the fall and winter:

  • Potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • All summer and winter squashes
  • Apricots, peaches and nectarines
  • All berries
  • Plums
  • Spinach (for use in soups and casseroles)
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Herbs for use as ingredients in recipes

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it helps you start thinking about how to extend your resources beyond the growing season. In fact, when planning a garden in early spring, browse cookbooks that are heavy on fall and winter comfort foods so you can plant as many of those ingredients as possible. Of course freeze-dried fruits are delicious on their own as a snack, but in the fall and winter there’s nothing like “fresh” fruit on hot oatmeal or yogurt and homemade granola.

When one has come out of a long winter, it’s easy to forget that there is another one just a few months ahead. Plan your summer garden to accommodate the recipes you most use in the fall and winter and you’ll save money at the grocery, enjoy better food year-round, and have a stash of preservative free fruits and vegetables for pennies on the dollar.