There’s something special about growing pounds and pounds of your favorite vegetables. It makes every meal feel like a celebration when you have heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, crunchy cucumbers, and sweet peppers on your plate. As much as I love to cook, however, there are only so many veggies I can eat or share before they go bad. Enter… canning. Now, what are the best vegetables for canning and preserving?
Good question. Some vegetables, like onions and winter squash, can remain good for quite some time if you cure them and leave them alone in cool storage. Some, like peas, will do just fine if you freeze them. But if you really want to get your homesteading groove on, canning (or preserving) is the way to go. Plus, grabbing your own garden vegetables from the cupboard in the middle of winter is so rewarding.
Safety first! When in doubt, throw it out!
Before we go any further, I have to mention food safety issues. It is so, so easy to introduce contaminants into food when you’re canning. Yeah, it’s a bummer to pull out a jar of your favorite veggie, only to find it covered in mold. But it’s really a bummer when invisible, harmful bacteria are living and reproducing in your canned vegetables. Botulism is no joke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have an entire section on this on their website, but here’s the short version:
“Never taste food to determine if it is safe. Do not taste or eat food that is discolored, moldy, or smells bad. Do not taste or eat food from cans that are leaking; have bulges or are swollen; or look damaged, cracked, or abnormal. Do not taste or eat food from a can that spurted liquid or foam when it was opened.”
The USDA also has an extensive “Complete Guide to Home Canning” covering everything from tomatoes to vegetables to fruits and even meats and seafood. There is a lot of information in the guide that’s well worth looking through if you’re thinking about canning.
That said, people have been canning and preserving foods for generations, so be cautious, be careful, but don’t be afraid of it. It’s a great way to save on food costs, keep high-quality vegetables on hand, and, well, it’s just cool.
The best vegetables for canning, preserving and eating any time you want
Okay, so what are the best vegetables for canning? Tomatoes are an obvious winner here. They don’t have a long shelf-life, and when you have a billion pounds of tomatoes that come in all at once, you have to do something with them! You can use them as they are, or make juice, sauce, salsa, or ketchup and can them that way.
Here are ten more of the best vegetables for canning and preserving (in alphabetical order because that seems easiest).
- Asparagus. Wash and trim your asparagus. Can it in pieces or in spears.
- Beets. Trim the tops and leaving some stem and roots. Boil to remove the skins. Can beets whole or cut in half or quarters for larger beets.
- Carrots. Wash ’em, peel ’em, slice ’em or dice ’em.
- Corn. Cut the kernels from the cob, making sure not to scrape the cob.
- Cucumbers. Cucumbers are among the classic best vegetables for canning. Use them as they are or make pickles!
- Green beans. Another classic. You can leave them raw to can them. Clip off the ends and can them as they are, or cut them into one-inch pieces.
- Okra. Wash the pods, trim the ends, and leave whole or cut into one-inch pieces.
- Peaches. I know. This is supposed to be about the best vegetables for canning, not the best fruits for canning. But in-season peaches are one of the best things in life, as far as I’m concerned, so why not preserve them?
- Peppers. Blister or boil peppers so you can remove the skins. Leave small peppers whole and cut large ones in half.
- Tomatoes. Yes, I know I already mentioned this, but it’s worth bringing up again. Out-of-season, supermarket tomatoes just aren’t the same as homegrown tomatoes. Sure, supermarket tomatoes are fine if you need them for a mid-winter stew or other recipe. But if you can preserve that late-summer bounty from your own garden, go for it!
Canning is a fun way to make your garden last longer. Plus, there are a lot of other fruits and vegetables you can use. I can guarantee when you open up a can of your garden veggies on a frigid winter night, you’ll be happy you decided to do this.
What are your favorite vegetables for canning? I’d love to read about them in the comments.