Growing and preparing it yourself doesn't automatically make it safe to eat.
Follow the best practices for keeping food safe at every step of the way:
- preparing your garden
- tending your crops
- during post-harvest handling
- as you prepare and serve food
- during short- and long-term storage
What? Me cook? Preserve?
Most Americans don't eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables for good health, and market prices keep rising, making it tough for many families to fit more fresh produce into their budgets.
Here's where home gardeners have a big advantage, at least during the growing season--fresh veggies, fruits and herbs--right outside the door or down the road.
Sadly, the fine arts of cooking and food preservation have disappeared from many homes. Plus, many new gardeners may never have seen, much less tried, some of the edibles they now have growing in the backyard.
Fortunately, most home gardeners love to eat, have a lot of curiosity and love a new adventure. Look for new ways to use some of your garden vegetables, fruits and herbs at these recipe sites:
Interested in the nutrient content of the fruits and vegetables you grow?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database is a huge database that lets you search for food composition information many different ways. If you feel confused at first, click the help button to the left of the keyword box.
Surplus garden crops to preserve?
Even a small garden can produce too much of a crop for immediate consumption. If you find youself in this enviable situatuion, consult our food preservation page for ideas about what to do with the overflow.
Making your own baby food
Home gardeners with babies and toddlers will find it easy to introduce home-grown vegetables and fruits by following the basic instructions in the UMaine Extension fact sheet, Making Your Own Baby Food. We recommend checking with your baby's health-care provider before introducing solid food.
Make sure you follow all the rules for food safety when you grow, handle, store and prepare food for your baby.
Nitrates in home-grown baby foods
You may have read warnings about feeding home-prepared foods to infants because of the danger of nitrate poisoning. The American Academy of Pediatrics' paper on The Role of Dietary Nitrate in Food and Water recommends that "home-prepared infant foods from vegetables (e.g., spinach, beets, green beans, squash, carrots) should be avoided until infants are 3 months or older."
Because water itself may contain as much or more nitrate as food, if you get your household water from a well, make sure to get the water tested before giving it to a young baby in any form.