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Determine what veggies to grow to save money

There are a few key elements to planning your garden with food preservation in mind.

You can look for a balance of crops that you like to eat, that will save you money by growing and preserving them yourself, and that have the flexibility to be preserved more than one way. Thinking ahead to what foods you’ll want stocked in the pantry and freezer come fall and winter can help determine what you plant in your summer garden.

Katharine Wilson

I’ll dig further into the preservation methods of water bath canning, freezing, dehydrating, and fermentation in future columns.

According to Virginia Cooperative Extension, the vegetables you can grow in our climate that have the highest economic value are: green beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, peas, scallions, lettuce, onions, peppers, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips.

That long list certainly gives Virginians a lot of options. To help narrow it down, consider that both lettuce and swiss chard are delicious greens to eat fresh, but lettuce isn’t suitable for preserving. You can blanch and freeze swiss chard to add into dishes later, or bring it to Prince Edward County Cannery to pressure can (see information at the end of the column).

When deciding how much of each crop to plant, a top priority is your preference for the crops. If you only cook with tomatoes occasionally, one plant may suffice. If you have a delicious family recipe for marinara sauce, planting several tomato plants will give you a larger harvest that you can turn into sauce and freeze, or use water bath canning to make jars of sauce that are shelf stable.

In a 5-foot-long row of plants, Virginians could expect the following approximate yields for these crops: green beans, 1.5 to 2.5 lb.; cucumbers, 4 to 5 lb.; kale and collards, 2 to 4 lb.; squash and zucchini, 10 to 40 lb.; peppers, 2.5 to 9 lb.; and tomatoes, 7 to 22 lb.

There’s a wide range for different varieties and growing conditions of each crop, but you can take your gardening hobby to the next level by weighing and recording your harvests this summer to help plan for next year.

You can find more gardening and food preservation resources on Virginia Food Works’ website: www. virginiafoodworks.org/ Home-Canning-Resources.

At VFW, we are looking forward to the start of Prince Edward County Cannery’s Home Canning Season. Beginning June 1, you can efficiently and affordably preserve food in metal cans for personal use with guidance from the Home Canning Manager. The Cannery is open to all experience levels of home canners on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday by appointment only. Call (434) 223-8664 or (434) 574-2745 for an appointment and to learn more.

KATHARINE WILSON is the director Virginia Food Works. She can be reached at info@virginiafoodworks.org.