Ideal gifts for preserving harvest

With a little over two weeks left before Christmas it is time to buy presents for the gardener in your life.

With a little over two weeks left before Christmas it is time to buy presents for the gardener in your life.

If the person likes to preserve fruits and vegetables it opens to endless shopping possibilities.

A food dehydrator is an age-old way to preserve food. There are many different brands and styles on the market. Look for one that has an adjustable thermostat which ensures that different items can be dehydrated at different temperatures thus ensuring better quality of product. A fan is another must as it keeps the heat evenly distributed and moves excess moisture away from the produce and out of the dehydrator.

Other convenient options include the option to expand with more trays, fruit leather sheets and tray protectors.

If the amount to be dehydrated is small then a small dehydrator with a few trays will work well. Those that plan to dehydrate a case or two of apples, or a row of onions will find a larger appliance with extra trays a time savings. It takes between four to 12 hours to dehydrate most items which mean the more that can be done at one time faster the job is complete.

The finished product from a fruit leather sheet is very popular with children. Fruits are made into a puree and spread over the solid sheets that fit into a tray. As the moisture leaves the tray a thick layer of fruit is left behind. The flavours and tastes that come out of these trays are endless as the ingredients that go into them. Unlike some of the commercial varieties they can be sugarless.

The flexible, mesh tray protector makes cleaning and removing food much easier. Removing the liner usually loosens the dried food items where often one has to individually pry items that are stuck to the tray when a liner is not used.

A good apple peeler is ideal for those that like to cook with apples or make apples chips. A good apple peeler will peel and slice at the turn of a handle. When the apple is removed from the device it appears as a spiral. A good suction cup on the bottom is essential to immobilize the peeler making it a one handed operation.

A cherry pitter is a welcomed gift if cherry preserves are a house hold favourite. While this was once used for a few weeks in a year it can now be used all summer as the different varieties of cherries on the market has extended the season through out the summer.

Those that struggle to find a place to hang their jelly bag will appreciate a jelly and syrup strainer that sits on the top of a pan.

As it is self supporting, the contents can sit on top of the pan and drip into the pot. This enables all the goodness and clear juices to leave the mash while keeping in the cloudier material that will flow through if the bag is squeezed.

Anyone that has made preserves knows how hard it is to fill jars and not spill it on the top or edge of the jar.

Metal funnels can make the chore much safer, easier and less messy. Purchase a funnel that sits on top of the jar securely. Ideally the funnel will not extend too far into the jar as it will be messy to remove. These are just a few of the items that will make preserving the harvest much easier. Large department stores or specialty shops will have these and other items that will be well received on Christmas morning.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in RockyMountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com