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By Debi Budnick
Klickitat County Public Health Department 

Rainbow of great seasonal foods awaits preservation

 


There is a rainbow to be seen this time of year in Klickitat County, but not the type you might be thinking of. To see it, visit any farmers Market or farm stand. There you will see the rainbow of locally grown fresh produce in season throughout summer and fall. Ripe, sweet fruits, juicy tomatoes, crunchy peas, beans and carrots, and refreshing salad greens are among the many delicious options to be found at the moment. Eating locally grown food that is in season not only tastes better, but it is actually better for your health. Since it doesn’t have to travel far to get to you, it can be picked at peak ripeness. That means that it is full of flavor and has also had time to develop more nutrients. To take full advantage of our local bounty, consider stocking up on in-season products and learning how to preserve them.

The valuable skill of food preservation is going to be especially helpful this year, considering the incredibly warm temperatures we have seen lately. Local produce is coming on fast, many things are ahead of schedule, and potentially not lasting as long. “We’re looking at a season that is at least two to three weeks earlier for most products,” says Paulette Lefever-Holbrook, a Goldendale rancher, farmer, and master food preserver. She notes that high temperatures are hard on your garden and that no one could have predicted this weather. “Ask the farmer what they have coming on, and plan for your preservation at home,” Lefever-Holbrook recommends.

There are many ways to develop and perfect your food preservation skills. If learning in a group setting with hands-on practice is your style, OSU Extension offers food preservation classes in Hood River and The Dalles in July and August. Upcoming topics include Learn to Make Jams and Jellies, Pickling and Fermenting, Pressure Canning, and Tasty Tomato Products. Contact Lauren Kraemer at (541) 386-3343 ext 258 or by email at lauren.kraemer@ oregonstate.edu for a full schedule and to reserve a spot. You can also check Gorge Grown Food Network’s upcoming events calendar on their homepage, http://www.gorgegrown.org.

Whether you are new to the practice of food preservation or a seasoned professional, get yourself a copy of the 37th edition of the Ball “Blue Book Guide to Preserving.” This helpful and easy to follow guide includes over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, and freezing food. Be sure to follow recipes exactly and replace any older versions of this book with the new one. Visit http://www.freshpreserving.com for more information.

It is important to note that food preservation has some significant safety concerns. “The biggest risk with improper home canning procedures is botulism, which is a rare but potentially fatal form of food poisoning,” says David Kavanagh, Environmental Health Specialist at the Klickitat County Health Department. To ensure that you are safely preserving harvest our local farmers have worked hard to produce, use up-to-date recipes from a reputable source and follow them exactly.

 

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