Q. We have a big apple crop this year. What’s the best way to store surplus fruit? Also, how do I dry walnuts that a neighbor gave me?-- The Kincaids, San Luis Obispo
A. One benefit of supermarkets is that they store food for us. When we grow our own, we need to decide how to preserve fruits and vegetables so that we don’t have feast and then famine! First, here’s a good Web site with detailed information on how to store and preserve many kinds of fruits and vegetables, including apples, nuts, garlic, tomatoes and peppers. Go to http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu, search ‘storing,’ then choose a variety.
The article on apples, for example, gives extensive information on freezing and drying them -- good options for those uninterested in canning. It tells how to prepare fruit, emphasizes sanitation (washing under running water, drying with paper towels, and using a clean cutting board), and suggests containers. It offers details on types of ascorbic acid for keeping apple preparations from darkening, and tells how long preserved fruit can safely be stored.
The site also has an article on how to prepare nuts for storage. Remove hulls (the fleshy green wrapping) as soon as possible. The longer hulls are left on, the more deterioration of quality. Use gloves for this job. Then spread the nuts out to dry in a shady spot, protecting them from moisture, birds and rodents. Kernels are ready when they are crisp, no longer rubbery. The article has good information on how long nuts can be stored, either shelled or in the shell.
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If you don’t use the internet, contact local Master Gardeners for information on storing produce.