Homegrown Pantry: A Gardener's Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round

Homegrown Pantry: A Gardener's Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round

by Barbara Pleasant


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Now that you’ve mastered gardening basics, you want to enjoy your bounty year-round, right? Homegrown Pantry picks up where beginning gardening books leave off, with in-depth profiles of the 55 most popular crops — including beans, beets, squash, tomatoes, and much more — to keep your pantry stocked throughout the year. Each vegetable profile highlights how many plants to grow for a year’s worth of eating, and which storage methods work best for specific varieties. Author Barbara Pleasant culls tips from decades of her own gardening experience and from growers across North America to offer planting, care, and harvesting refreshers for every region and each vegetable. 

Foreword INDIES Silver Award Winner
GWA Media Awards Silver Award Winner

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612125787
Publisher: Storey Books
Publication date: 05/02/2017
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 306,669
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Barbara Pleasant has been covering organic gardening and self-sufficient living for more than 30 years. A contributing editor to Mother Earth News, Pleasant has garnered multiple awards from the Garden Writers Association and the American Nursery and Landscape Association. She has written books on topics ranging from compost to weeds, including Homegrown Pantry, Starter Vegetable Gardens, The Complete Compost Gardening Guide (with Deborah L. Martin), The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, The Gardener’s Bug Book, The Gardener’s Weed Book, The Gardener’s Guide to Plant Diseases, and Garden Stone. Her columns and articles appear regularly in Mother Earth Living magazine and at GrowVeg.com and on other informational websites. Pleasant lives in Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, and fruits along with a few chickens, who all have names. 

Read an Excerpt



The best food in the world starts in the garden and ends on your plate, perhaps after a comfortable stop in a well-stocked pantry or freezer. It never knows the back of a truck or the inside of a factory, and it holds no chemical or genetic secrets. The food you grow and preserve yourself is pure. Eating it feels comfortable and good.

This is why we garden our way through summer and can our way through fall, with the hum of the dehydrator in the background. Both a hobby and a lifestyle, provisioning yourself with homegrown, organic food brings tasty, tangible rewards that save you money, but it's the overall wholesomeness of the endeavor that makes food gardening so special. The package deal includes healthy exercise and mindfulness practice (weeding, cutting vegetables), for which you get a supply of fresh food that is renewed each year.

This book is about growing a garden that produces tasty, nutritious vegetables, herbs, and fruits, and then storing them for year-round use. This rewarding path leads to a fuller life, but it's a long and winding road from growing your first tomato to canning a batch of salsa. This is your guidebook for that journey.


My city mother fell in love with and married my country father, who grew a vegetable garden every summer because he liked it and thought that's the way life should be. With four kids to feed, Mom liked the money she saved with all the produce that came from the garden, but she didn't like the extra work involved in canning, at least most of the time. When the wild huckleberries in the woods ripened in early summer, she patiently picked the tiny berries and used them in muffins and pancakes, but she also made precious jars of huckleberry jam.

As her first assistant, I saw the time and care she took with that jam, and I knew it was not about saving money. She had devoted herself to those huckleberries by choice, and seeing that they were put to good use became a source of personal pride.

I should mention that my mother was Swedish, and that "Nothing wasted" was one of the mantras of my childhood, but this does not explain the compulsion to pick and preserve berries, which may be hardwired into our hunter-gatherer brains. As poetically stated by Wendell Berry, "Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup." In terms of things you can do to have a better life, picking berries simply works.

Growing and preserving at least some of your own food will also make you feel more secure in a wild and ever-changing world. News of war, sickness, and economic collapse loses some of its punch when you are sitting in the shade with a basket of snap beans in your lap or lingering in the kitchen to hear the last canning lids pop.


In 2010, Melissa A. Click from the University of Missouri and Ronit Ridberg from Tufts University published their examination of why people grow and preserve their own food. Their results showed complex motives, but food activism was a recurrent theme. After sorting through and analyzing more than 900 interviews with people who stock their pantries with homegrown food, the authors named their paper "Saving Food: Food Preservation as Alternative Food Activism." They wrote: "Food preservation emphasizes connection and relationships and thus has the potential to subvert the capitalistic logic of the global agro-food industry."

This came as a revelation to me and helped me become a better information sharer and listener. I had started lecturing on managing your homegrown food supply, and I will always remember a group waiting to hear what I had to say at the Mother Earth News Fair in Lawrence, Kansas. The room was full with people who were already growing and preserving some of their own food, and they wanted to do more of it. Many had children or grandchildren in tow. The energy was great, so we spent a lot of time talking about why we do what we do. What is it about growing and preserving your own food that makes it worth the time and trouble?

I was the only one there who had read Click and Ridberg's paper, but the Kansas group (and many others since then) validated and expanded the reasons why we commit to growing and preserving garden food, season after season. We pantry gardeners are a diverse, freethinking crowd, but here are 12 things many of us have in common.

1. You want to know what's in your food from seed to table. You perceive foods grown with systemic pesticides or genetic alterations as unacceptable, and you want to feel comfortable with what you eat.

2. You want to control how your food tastes in terms of sugar and salt, and you don't want synthetic preservatives or colors. Plain food is good food.

3. You want to feel confident rather than suspicious about the food you eat and serve to your children. Several major medical schools have advised pregnant women and young children to eat organic food because of high levels of carcinogens and other toxins present in mainstream foods. This is not news to you.

4. You want your food to be consistent with your personal morals and beliefs. If you are a vegetarian, for example, growing and processing your own foods gives you a chance to eliminate animal-based ingredients.

5. You feel that growing and preserving your own food makes you a member in good standing of the global social movement toward clean, ethically grown food. Talking food sustainability is good, but acting on those beliefs makes you feel that you are part of something bigger.

6. You think of spending your money as a political act, especially when it comes to food. The belief in voting with your dollars is strong among gardeners who grow their own food, from the seed companies they patronize to the equipment and ingredients they buy for preserving food.

7. You feel empowered by knowing how to grow and preserve food to eat year-round. The transition from "I think maybe I can grow potatoes" to gaining the skills needed to grow, harvest, cure, and store a bumper crop brings a certain boldness of being.

8. You are willing to work hard for the reward of food security, and upon balance you think it's a good deal. Some days are easier than others, with persistence your only choice, but when the harvest is done you feel it was all worth it.

9. You regard growing and preserving your own food as an investment in your personal health, and that of your community and environment. By growing clean, nutritious food, using organic methods, you feel like you are doing your part.

10. You find that managing your own food supply connects you more deeply to nature and the earth. From the changing of the seasons to the hardness or softness of rain, you sense the world as a human and as a plant.

11. You feel a sense of family and social history when you grow and store your own food. Maybe it's making your grandmother's pickles, or your uncle's apple butter, but certain family recipes for preserved foods embrace us on deep levels, as sensory definitions of family.

12. You think a pantry filled with homegrown food is about the prettiest thing you've ever seen, and you like pretty things. To you, few things are more beautiful than abundance.

Sound familiar? Then it's time we got down to business.


Homegrown Pantry is comprised of five chapters. Here in chapter 1, we will become grounded in our gardens and look at ways they can be managed to produce great food as efficiently as possible. While I hope beginning gardeners find this information easy to understand, it will make the most sense to people who have been gardening for a few years and have already gotten to know a number of different food crops firsthand. The more you grow, the more you know.

Chapter 2 provides step-by-step instructions for major food preservation methods, whether you are storing potatoes in old milk crates or making salt-fermented sauerkraut. This is where to look for simple canning instructions or for the many ways you can use a dehydrator to preserve summer produce for winter meals. Remember that practice makes perfect, and don't be discouraged by early mistakes. With gardening and food preservation, the next season brings new chances to succeed.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 are encyclopedias of rewarding crops for the pantry garden, with details on how much to grow, how to grow it, and the best preservation options to consider when you have a bumper crop. These vegetables, fruits, and herbs were chosen based on their popularity, how well they are likely to grow using organic methods, and the ease with which they can be preserved. This is precisely the information I needed but did not have when I started food gardening in a serious way. Of special note are the Harvest Day Recipes, which are among the fastest and easiest ways to make use of a big harvest quickly.


There are several things about the place where you live that influence the crops and varieties you grow and how you preserve them. Becoming familiar with your climate zone, frost dates, latitude, elevation, and precipitation patterns will make you a better gardener and self-provisioner, too.

Average Frost Dates

As a vegetable gardener, the average dates of your last frost in spring and your first frost in fall provide reference points for when many vegetables should be planted. In general, these dates mark the beginning and end of the season for beans, tomatoes, and other warm-season vegetables that need warm soil temperatures and are easily injured by frost. Most cool-season vegetables are planted weeks before the last frost passes, and many of them stay in the garden until cold temperatures coupled with a short supply of sunshine stop their growth. Many Internet sites provide frost date calculators based on zip code, but you will get more detailed information from data collected by your state climatology service. Search "frost dates [your state]" to find the dates you need, and commit them to memory.

USDA Zones

In the United States, the Department of Agriculture has divided the country into numbered growing zones based on average minimum winter temperatures. Zone numbers from the US mainland range from Zone 3 in the far north to Zone 9 in Florida and southern California. The zone system aids communication among gardeners in general, but it becomes hugely relevant when you are selecting trees, berries, and perennials for your garden. Garden catalogs and plant tags use the zone system, making it easier to choose appropriate plants. If you are not sure which zone you are in, the mother map online (http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PH ZMWeb/) has a search function by zip code.


Your latitude, or distance from the equator, determines day length patterns in your area. Locations close to the equator see less dramatic changes in day length than those that are farther away. For example, day lengths in New Orleans, near the 30th parallel, range from 10.1 hours on January 1 to 13.9 hours on July 1. Farther north, near the 40th parallel, which includes New York City and Salt Lake City, the shortest winter days last only 9.2 hours, but the longest summer days go to 14.8 hours.

Because they are solar beings, plants are much more attuned to these changes than are we humans. Especially when day lengths change quickly, in spring and fall, many plants respond by moving in or out of reproductive mode. The rapid lengthening of each spring day coaxes Asian greens and cilantro to bolt (produce flowers and seeds) at a young age, and most spinach varieties cannot hold themselves back from bolting once days get to be more than 13 hours long. In fall, when these triggers are absent, the plants have no interest in bolting and keep growing leaves. In the case of peppers, long August nights push the plants to load up with fruits.

Onions use multiple cues to form bulbs, including day length and temperature. This is why it is important to choose varieties that are right for your latitude, as discussed in Best Onions for the Homegrown Pantry.


Higher elevations usually see more intense winds and cooler temperatures than lower elevations, with first and last frost dates that may differ from nearby areas at lower elevations by 2 weeks or more. In addition to an overall shorter growing season, altitude has a huge implication in food preservation because it changes the temperature at which water boils due to lowered atmospheric pressure. At sea level water boils at 212°F (100°C), but at 3,000 feet above sea level (the elevation at my house), the boiling point is only about 207°F (97°C). Because the food is cooking at a lower temperature, my canning jars must be processed longer to kill microorganisms.

Rainfall and Snowfall Patterns

In every place I have lived and gardened, there have been predictable patterns in when the weather will be wet and when dry conditions will prevail. Average monthly rainfall numbers for your location are easily accessed on the Internet, plus you can keep records of your own observations. A simple rain gauge and an outdoor thermometer will add much interest to watching the weather.

In an ideal season, most crops will receive regular rain during their juvenile growth phase and will be ready for drier conditions as they approach maturity. You can change planting dates and watering practices to keep them aligned with the natural precipitation patterns where you live.


When you are gardening to fill your pantry, consider these three questions when deciding what to grow:

1. Is this crop productive and easy to grow in my climate?

2. How much does my family like to eat it?

3. How much time and trouble is involved in storing this crop?

Choosing easy, productive crops is a simple matter of going with your garden's strengths. If the crop is in high demand in the kitchen and can be stored in cloth shopping bags in the basement, you have a winner. Potatoes, onions, garlic, pumpkins and winter squash, and sweet potatoes (where they grow well) should be priority crops because they often get positive answers to these three pivotal questions.

Crops that are easy to grow in one place may be huge challenges in another, and it just makes sense to repeat your successes. For example, if your carrots are seldom spectacular but your beans are robust, keep your carrot plantings small and grow as many beans as you can eat. Your soil's overall quality will improve over time when you use compost, organic fertilizers, and biodegradable mulches. This will change the script for crops that should grow well in your garden but fail to measure up.

When you find vegetables that excel in your garden, and grow as much of them as you are likely to eat, you will take a huge step closer to food self-sufficiency. Don't waste time and space growing more than you need or crops you really don't like to eat.

Work Your Shoulder Seasons

If your main growing season runs from May to October, your "shoulder seasons" are early spring and late fall. These are the times to grow salad greens and other veggies eaten fresh, and to enjoy early-bearing perennials like asparagus and rhubarb.

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and other small fruits are easy to grow organically, but they are time consuming to pick. June-bearing strawberries and early raspberries help to open the harvest season early. They can be picked and stashed in the freezer before vegetable garden produce takes over your kitchen.

Balancing Your Garden's

Food Groups

The concept of food groups is often used in diet planning, but it should be used in garden planning, too. Once they come into the kitchen, many vegetables cluster together in how they are eaten or preserved, which can lead to pantry overload or dinnertime boredom. Check out the kitchen food groups below, and strive for a happy balance within each set of similar choices.

Orange-fleshed vegetables. Carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and winter squash can be used in salads, soups, side dishes, breads, and desserts, but at some point your palate will tire of orange-fleshed vegetables and need some recovery time. This is a pity because sweet potatoes and winter squash are so easy to store. Do be realistic about how many orange-fleshed vegetables you enjoy eating, and adjust how much you grow.

Root crops. The growing popularity of fermentation has helped make better use of fall root crops — including radishes, rutabagas, and turnips — but you can still end up with a cold storage problem once you've eaten your fill of roasted root vegetables and hard freezes have begun. Among root crops, it's important to grow only as much as you can store in a refrigerated space.

Leafy greens. These wonderfully productive plants will surprise you, and many stems from chard, collards, and kale will be wasted if you plant more than you can use. The situation becomes more complicated if you also grow fall crops of turnip or mustard greens, so hard choices often must be made. I suggest changing things up from season to season, so that some years you skip growing a leafy green you like. Then, when you grow it again in a future season, you will be glad to have it.


Excerpted from "Homegrown Pantry"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Barbara Pleasant.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1: Why Grow Your Own Food?
  The Drive to Provide
  Twelve Common Traits of Pantry Gardeners
  How to Use This Book
  Your Climate, by the Numbers
  Choosing What to Grow
  Working with Tunnels
  Managing Your Food Preservation Garden
  Cooking from the Homegrown Pantry
2: Basic Food Preservation Methods
  Five Basic Food Storage Methods
  Cold Storage of Homegrown Produce
  Freezing Your Homegrown Bounty
  Drying Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits
  Canning Your Homegrown Harvest
  The Magic of Food Fermentation
3: Vegetables for the Homegrown Pantry
  Brussels Sprouts
  Kale and Collards
  Summer Squash
  Sweet Potatoes
  Swiss Chard
  Winter Squash
4: Fruits for the Homegrown Pantry
  Tree Fruits
    Pears and Asian Pears
    Plums, Peaches, and Nectarines
5: Herbs for the Homegrown Pantry
  Kitchen Herbs
  Tea Herbs
    Lemon Balm

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Homegrown Pantry: A Gardener's Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year Round 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
havingfun More than 1 year ago
I would highly recommend this book for anyone who has a prolific garden and is looking for ways to preserve the abundance! Covers an extensive array of herbs, fruitsand vegetables in an easy to read , colorful format. Barbara Pleasant discuss is every possible way of storage and provides tips for which varieties are best for storage. Well done.