It’s January 2017 so first things first- Happy New Year to you!
It’s a new year and I’m already thinking about canning; I do not want to miss any veggie and fruit seasons this year. I’ve become a bit obsessed with canning even though I’ve only canned 4 times total in my life. They all have been with a water bath canner. I’m still too scared of my pressure canner but maybe this year that will change.
Historically, canning was a way to preserve the bounties of backyard gardens. Well, let me tell you that’s another story in Florida. Growing food here is hard, ESPECIALLY organically. And I’m not the only Floridian who thinks that. We are not gardening at the moment but I refuse to let that stop me from canning.
How to Find Produce to Can without Gardening
I know of three ways to find bulk fruits and vegetables that are in-season to can:
- U-Pick Farms
- Fruit and Vegetable Festivals
- Local Farmers
U-Pick Farms are a TON of fun. Bring your friends and family and I guarantee you will have a wonderful, memory-filled day.
Last summer, we visited a local, family-owned blueberry farm and the place was absolutely stunning. I’m so thankful for the people who open up their homes and farms for the public to enjoy.
A few plusses and minuses about u-pick farms: first, they can be fun, half-day events for the whole family. And, if you’re into photography they make beautiful backdrops for photos. But, compared to our other options, they can be a pricey way to obtain bulk produce. It really depends on each farm, unless you can find a place that will let you pick for free.
Fruit and Vegetable Festivals
While thinking about finding food to can, I remembered Florida’s beloved Strawberry Festival, “I know- I’ll attend ALL of Florida’s fruit and vegetable festivals!” Then, I came to my senses and realized that’s overkill and a LOT of driving. I hope to attend only two this year: the Florida Strawberry Festival in March and the Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival in May.
Every state (I think) has fruit and vegetable festivals and it’s a great way to support your local agriculture. You can find both U-Pick farms and your state’s festivals at this link: Pick Your Own.org. Do your research and check if the festival sells flats or bulk amounts of your desired produce first.
Some minuses about festivals: while fun they will most likely be an ALL DAY event. It also may entail a lot of driving. And I do not know the price of bulk produce sold at festivals. I hope they are reasonable but I have not attended one in a long time.
We now come to our last and possibly best way to find in-season produce: your local farmer. Yes, people still farm and they want to sell you their hard work. I know of two ways to find local farmers: Local Harvest.org and your county’s extension office. Just google it. While I appreciate these online sites both of them can be horribly out-of-date in my experience. The absolute best way to find your local farmers? The farmer’s market. The farmers at your market are still in business and actively farming. Get their names and numbers and ask them what is coming into season. Let them know you want bulk veggies to preserve. I have found this to the cheapest route as well.
Can You Add to This List?
You may be surprised I did not mention CSA’s (Community Share Agriculture) as a way to get bulk produce. That’s because I bought bulk tomatoes to preserve from my CSA and while they were organic they came all the way from Arizona. They obviously weren’t that fresh but I tried canning stewed tomatoes with them anyway. Basically, it was a disaster and I’m not sure they are safe to eat. I have not touched them since and they are still sitting in my cabinet until I decide what to do with them. If you can get local, bulk food from your CSA then give it a try.
I’ve also heard of people obtaining pounds of veggies from their supermarket at rock bottom prices. Is the food older? Is it local or is it shipped in from somewhere? The supermarkets around me are big chains and I’m not sure this method would work for me?
Have you gotten canning produce from your supermarket? Do you know of any ways to find veggies to can without gardening? If so, please let us know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and happy canning.