Preserving Your Garden Harvest (11 Methods I Like To Use)

When you first start out with vegetable gardening, you probably aren’t giving much thought to preserving your harvest. (To be honest, you might be happy just to get something to grow!)

But as you get better, you will probably need to find a few ways to preserve the bounty from your garden. Luckily, there are lots of ways to do it.

So, how do you preserve your garden harvest? Some of my favorite methods to preserve a garden harvest are: drying out herbs, dehydrating fruit, freezing berries, blanching & freezing vegetables, making jelly or jam, canning tomatoes, salsa or pickles, pressure canning low acid foods, baking & freezing, fermentation (wine), and seed saving.

You don’t have to use all of these methods – but you can probably find some way to preserve at least some of what you’ve grown this year.

In this article, I’ll tell you a little about each method and how I’ve used it.

Let’s get started!

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Preserving Your Garden Harvest

Depending on what you grow, there are different ways to preserve what you get from your garden.

canning jars food preservation
There are lots of ways to preserve the fruits, vegetables, and herbs from your garden – probably more than you can use in one season!

Here is a preview of all the methods (you can click on the links in the list below to jump to that section of the article):

Let’s start with one of the simplest methods: drying herbs.

1. Drying Herbs

This method is pretty easy to do without a lot of equipment. If you have an herb drying rack, that works great.

If not, you can use a cooling rack (the ones you put cookies on after baking). Just lay the herb leaves on top of the cooling rack and leave them out to dry.

cooling rack
Repurpose your cooling rack to dry herbs.

You might not need to wash your herbs before drying if they are already clean. If they are covered with soil, pollen, etc., then you might want to soak them to remove the dirt.

After rinsing the herbs, I use a salad spinner to get most of the water off of the leaves. That way, they dry out a little faster.

Use a fan or put the herb drying rack near a window to get a breeze from outside. After the leaves are dried out, I like to put them in a glass jar with a screw top lid.

mason jars
You can put dried herbs in a glass jar and seal it with a screw top lid.

Mint grows and spreads like crazy in my garden, but there are lots of other herbs you can preserve by drying, including:

  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Lemon Balm
thyme bundle
You can dry an entire bundle of thyme at once by hanging it up, or put it on a rack to dry.

One more thing: be sure to harvest your herbs early enough. If you pick the leaves when the herbs are flowering, they will be bitter (kind of like how lettuce gets bitter after it “bolts” and starts to flower and go to seed).

2. Dehydrating Fruit

This is another method to preserve your harvest that isn’t too difficult. It also saves energy compared to making jelly or freezing, and you won’t have to worry about losing produce in a power outage (like you do with frozen fruit).

columnar apple
Apples are a good choice for slicing and dehydrating.

There are lots of different fruits you can grow in your garden to dehydrate for the winter, such as:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes

For larger fruit (like apples, peaches, pears), one way to do it is to cut the fruit into slices (thin pieces will dry out faster). You will need to remove the pits (peaches) or core (apples, pears) before slicing.

For smaller fruit (like blueberries and grapes), you can dehydrate them whole without any cutting.

Dried grapes (AKA raisins!) are tasty and easy to pack for a quick snack.

Either way, a temperature of 130 to 150 Fahrenheit (54 to 66 Celsius) is good for drying out fruit. If you have a dehydrator, you can use it to make the drying process easier.

If not, you can still dehydrate fruit on the low heat setting in your oven (just make sure that the minimum temperature on your oven is not too high).

dehydrated fruit
Dehydrated fruit will keep for a while due to the low moisture content, which inhibits mold growth.

If you wish, you can also chop up and cook your fruit to remove some of the water. Then, spread it out and let it dehydrate at low heat to make a type of “fruit roll up”. They are delicious – and they also have plenty of fiber, so they are filling.

3. Freezing Berries

This is a pretty easy way to preserve fruit from your garden. Just remember that you stand to lose any frozen fruit in a long power outage at any time of year.

Blueberries taste great frozen – and you can still turn them into jam or jelly later if you are too busy with other tasks when the fruit ripens!

There are lots of berries you can freeze to preserve, including:

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Currants
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

I think the best way to do it is to lay the berries out on a tray first (make sure it will fit in the freezer!) After the fruit is frozen (it can take hours, depending on the freezer setting and size of the fruit), put the berries into bags.

ripening strawberries
Strawberries are good for freezing – you can cut bigger ones into slices first if you want.

This method will keep the berries from sticking together in the bag (especially juicy ones like raspberries or cut strawberries).  Instead of a huge mass of stuck-together frozen berries, you have individually frozen berries that you can take out as needed.

If you lose power (or you run out of space), you can always heat up your frozen berries and turn them into jelly or jam. You can also use them in cakes or other desserts.

Personally, I like to add berries with walnuts and granola to yogurt or cottage cheese. It’s up to you though!

4. Blanching & Freezing Vegetables

Unlike berries, you can’t just freeze vegetables. Otherwise, they will be ruined. The solution is to blanch them first, then freeze them. I like to do this, especially with broccoli.

You can blanch and freeze broccoli to preserve your harvest if you have too much to eat all at once.

To blanch broccoli, bring water to a boil in a pot. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare a bowl of ice water, and then clean off your vegetables in the sink (soak and/or rinse).

When the water is boiling, drop the broccoli in for a few minutes (I like to use a timer so I don’t forget or over cook them).

Then, use a strainer to take the broccoli out of the boiling water and drop it into the ice water. Give it another few minutes.

Then, strain out the water and put the broccoli in bags. Only put as much as you normally like to cook for a meal in a bag – you don’t want a giant bag of frozen-together broccoli!

You can also do this with spinach and other veggies – I like to have spinach ready to go in the freezer too. All you have to do is take it out, let it thaw, and heat it up a bit to have a nice side dish.

You can also cook and freeze spinach in bags to have a side-dish preserved and ready to go.

5. Making Jelly & Jam

If you don’t want to rely on a freezer (or you don’t have enough space), you can turn your fruit into jelly or jam.

jam jelly
Making jelly or jam lets you preserve fruit without a freezer. There is more upfront prep work, though.

The only drawback is that this method requires cooking the fruit and using a boiling water bath (or pressure canner), which is somewhat involved. You also need to add lemon juice (or some type of acid) to some fruits that are low in acid.

Generally, jelly has no “flesh” (fiber) – it is made from fruit juice and sugar (the “pulp” is strained out). Jam has flesh (fiber), and the “pulp” is left in. Basically: jam = jelly + pulp.

There are lots of fruits you can turn into jelly or jam, including:

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Currants
  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
red currants
Red currants are nice and tart, making them excellent for jelly or jam. You can also try white or black currants!

You will probably need to add pectin to get your jelly or jam to be firm. I like to use Pomona’s Universal Pectin (for low-sugar canning), but there are other types available (usually you can find them at the grocery store).

Jam doesn’t have to be limited to fruit – for example, you can also make mint jelly. I don’t have space in one article to write a recipe book, but you can find recipes from Ball (they also have a book available, as well as preservation supplies on their website).

You can find food preservation supplies from True Leaf Market.

6. Canning Tomatoes & Salsa

Tomatoes are a high-acid food, which means you can preserve them with a hot water bath (instead of needing to use pressure canning). You can preserve tomatoes by themselves, or turn them into pizza sauce, pasta sauce, or salsa (you would need onions, peppers, vinegar, and a few other ingredients!)

ripe tomatoes on vine
You can preserve tomatoes without a pressure canner – but you still need to boil water.

To can tomatoes, start by putting them in boiling water. Next, use a strainer to take them out and drop them in cool water. This will make the skins come off easier.

Peel the skins off and cut out the top part (where the stem was connected to the plant). You will need to heat up the flesh that is left, put it into hot glass jars, add salt, seal them (with new lids), and process them in a hot water bath.

There’s a lot more to it than what I wrote here – you can get more detail on making salsa and other preserved tomato products here.

canning salsa harvest
Salsa is a great way to use tomatoes, onions, and peppers from your vegetable garden.

7. Pickling

Pickling is another method to preserve garden produce that works for low-acid foods. The reason it works is because you are adding vinegar, which is acidic.

You can use any cucumbers for pickling – make sure you have dill available too!

To make dill pickles, use pickling cucumbers if you have them (but any cucumber will work, really). Fresh dill from the garden is great – but if you grow it, be sure to give it a closed-off space of its own. Otherwise, it will take over the garden (kind of like what mint does!)

You can find more information on making pickles here.

8. Pressure Canning

This preservation method is used for low-acid foods. The increased pressure allows water to reach a higher temperature (240 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of the usual 212 Fahrenheit).

This higher temperature kills bacterial spores found in low-acid foods.

pressure canner cooker
Pressure canning lets water get hotter due to high pressure, killing bacterial spores in low-acid foods.

Pressure canning is a little more involved than other preservation methods – but it lets you preserve a much wider variety of food.

You can learn more about pressure canning here.

9. Baking & Freezing

If you did well with zucchini this year, you probably got an abundance of fruit all at once. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes you can’t even give it all away!

If you can’t eat it all now, then just preserve it instead. One way to do this is to bake zucchini bread and freeze it.

Basically, it is the same idea as banana bread, but with grated zucchini replacing the banana. After you bake it, you can eat it over the course of a few days – or freeze an entire loaf of bread and thaw it out to eat later!

zucchini squash
Got too much zucchini all at once? No problem – just make zucchini bread and freeze it!

Just make sure your zucchini isn’t bitter, or your bread won’t come out well. If the zucchini is too old, give it to your chickens to eat or put it in your compost pile – it won’t really go to waste!

10. Fermentation

Fermentation is another method you can use to preserve your garden harvest. You can make wine from grapes, but you can also add other types of fruit (or juice) to change the flavor.

winery glasses grapes

I’m not a wine-making expert, but my brother and a friend of mine both have some experience in the field.

If wine isn’t your thing, you can also use fermentation on cabbage to make kimchi (cabbage, onions, & carrots) or sauerkraut.

You can use fermentation to make kimchi or sauerkraut from cabbage.

You can also make pickles in a different way by using lacto fermentation.

11. Seed Saving

I wanted to make the list a nice even 10 – but I couldn’t leave this one out. The last method to preserve your garden harvest is … seed saving!

tall sunflower
Some seeds (like sunflower seeds) you can save for eating – others, you can save for planting next year or for trading!

Ok, it isn’t really “preservation” (unless you are talking about sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, or that type of thing). Instead, seed saving lets you “preserve” the genetics of a specific type of heirloom plant whose taste or appearance you like.

You can learn the basics of seed saving here.

After you save your seeds, you can bring them to a seed swap to learn from and trade stories (and seeds) with other gardeners. You can learn more about seed swaps here.


Now you know the basics for some of the ways you can preserve your garden harvest. You also know where to get more detailed information if you want to keep learning.

To find books, courses, seeds, gardening supplies, and more, check out The Shop at Greenupside!

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Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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