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Preserving the Harvest: Extending the Bounty of Your CSA All Year Round

June 26, 2024

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Preserving the Harvest: Extending the Bounty of Your CSA All Year Round

The Joys (and Trials) of Food Preservation

One of the highlights of my life the last few months has been food preservation. It looks me right in the face every time I step foot in our amazing root cellar at the farm. From seed to storage, there is nothing more satisfying than preserving the bounty of the season, especially when you can watch a crop throughout its entire lifetime. My shelves are full of some amazing local produce, thanks both to my job at the farm and having friends in the farm community.

I am still relatively new to food preserving, and the volume needed for a highly self-sustaining lifestyle hasn’t been attainable quite yet. So, it seems like less of a chore and more of an experiment. We all know there are much less time-strenuous ways of getting and keeping food, but I’m enjoying honing the craft of putting up food for the winter.

When I’m sweating over a hot stove by myself, I often think about the times when people would participate in community canning parties. It seems like a big stretch to organize events like that today, but it seems like such a great thing, and I love hearing stories about farm members getting together with friends and family to process food together. It’s so great to know exactly what you’re eating and where it comes from, and doing the work with others makes it an occasion rather than just a chore. Plus, the apple fruit roll-ups I made with local apples taste much better than Betty Crocker’s.

The Cyclical Nature of the Farm

After last week’s storm, the fields are covered in snow, though it looks like we may lose it all this week. A good hard freeze gives our soil a nice reset each year and can kill invasive pests, so we’re hoping that we do get some extended winter weather soon, and we sure could use some moisture in the ground.

Towards the end of this harvest season, we removed all of the plastic walls from one of the greenhouses to give the soil inside a much-needed snow treatment this winter. While the plastic stays up on most of the greenhouses every winter, we try to leave it off over winter when it needs to be replaced. This helps wash away mineral build-ups from many seasons of irrigation, loosen the soil with a few good freeze-thaw cycles, and build up the subsoil water reserves.

I have a feeling that one of the first tasks to happen on the farm this spring is reassembling the greenhouse. I hope we have some calm days this spring because any breeze can get pretty exciting when you’re holding a 48×150 foot kite. If you see us hitchhiking back from Wisconsin in April, you’ll know what happened.

Preserving for the Long Haul

Now, let’s talk about the real reason you’re here – preserving your CSA bounty for the long haul. As a relative newcomer to food preservation, I’ve been on a steep learning curve, but I’ve also had the privilege of learning from some experienced farmers and preservers in our community.

One of the highlights of my journey has been discovering the joy of making my own apple fruit roll-ups with local apples. They taste so much better than the store-bought varieties, and I love knowing exactly where my ingredients came from. Preserving the harvest isn’t just about stocking up for the winter; it’s about savoring the flavors of the season and reconnecting with the land.

Canning and Pickling

One of the most straightforward ways to preserve your CSA haul is through canning and pickling. Whether you’re water-bath canning tomatoes, pressure canning green beans, or whipping up a batch of fermented sauerkraut, these methods allow you to capture the peak freshness of your produce and enjoy it throughout the year.

Canning does require some specialized equipment, like a large pot or pressure canner, jars, and lids. But once you have the basics, it’s a relatively simple process that can yield impressive results. The key is to follow tried-and-true recipes and techniques to ensure food safety.


Freezing is another versatile preservation method that works well for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Whether you’re blanching and freezing green beans, pureeing and freezing roasted squash, or simply portioning out extra berries, the freezer can be your best friend when it comes to extending the life of your CSA bounty.

One tip I’ve learned is to pay attention to the specific needs of each crop. Some veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower, do better with a quick blanching before freezing, while others, like zucchini and peppers, can be frozen raw. And don’t forget to label and date your packages to keep track of what’s in the freezer!

Drying and Dehydrating

Drying and dehydrating are fantastic ways to preserve the flavors and nutrients of your CSA produce while drastically reducing their volume. From dried herbs and spices to fruit leathers and vegetable chips, the dehydrator can work wonders.

Dehydrating is a particularly useful technique for items like tomatoes, mushrooms, and leafy greens, which can easily be rehydrated and incorporated into soups, stews, and other dishes throughout the year.

Root Cellaring

For those of us lucky enough to have access to a root cellar or other cool, dark storage space, this traditional preservation method can be a game-changer. Crops like potatoes, carrots, beets, and winter squash can be stored for months, providing a steady supply of fresh produce even in the depths of winter.

The key to successful root cellaring is creating the right environment – cool temperatures, high humidity, and good air circulation. It takes some experimentation, but the rewards of having a well-stocked root cellar are immense.


Fermentation is another preservation method that’s been making a big comeback in recent years. Not only does it help extend the life of your produce, but it also imparts unique flavors and boosts the nutritional value through the magic of beneficial bacteria.

From sauerkraut and kimchi to pickled veggies and lacto-fermented hot sauce, the fermentation process is a fascinating one. It does require some special equipment and a bit of patience, but the results are well worth it.

Preserving the Whole Animal

While this may not be directly relevant to your CSA haul, it’s worth mentioning that the principles of preserving the harvest can also be applied to meat and other animal products. Whether you’re curing and smoking your own bacon, rendering tallow for long-term storage, or experimenting with charcuterie, the art of whole-animal utilization is a fascinating one.

Preserving Community, Preserving the Land

As I reflect on my journey into the world of food preservation, I’m struck by how much it’s not just about stocking the pantry, but about preserving the connections and rhythms that make our local food system so special.

When I’m standing in the root cellar, surrounded by the bounty of the season, I can’t help but think about the hands that tended those crops, the soil that nourished them, and the community that supports this way of life. And when I’m elbow-deep in a batch of pickled peppers, I’m reminded of the stories and traditions that are woven into the fabric of preserving the harvest.

At the end of the day, Thornapple CSA is not just about the food – it’s about sustaining a way of life that’s deeply rooted in the land and the people who care for it. And by learning to preserve the bounty of the season, we’re not just stocking our pantries; we’re honoring the cycles of the earth and the generations of wisdom that have been passed down to us.

So, as you dive into your own food preservation adventures, I encourage you to embrace the journey – the highs and lows, the successes and failures. Because in the end, it’s not just about the final products on your shelves; it’s about the connections you forge, the skills you develop, and the ways in which you become a steward of the land and a keeper of the traditions that sustain us all.

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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