delgazette.com

Carl 'Dave' Roberts

July 15, 2011

KATE LIEBERS

Staff Writer

Local gardeners are putting a lid on it.

As part of its community gardening series, the Wornstaff Memorial Public Library in Ashley is showing people how to properly can and freeze their produce.

The session will focus on updated food safety standards, said Joyce Fittro, an Ohio State University Extension Educator. She is scheduled to make the presentation July 23 at the library.

The potential health risk that improper food preservation poses makes this upcoming course especially important, Fittro suggested.

“There are still a few people who are practicing food preservation techniques that maybe their grandmothers passed down to them,” Fittro said.

For instance, the traditional boiled water bath canning method does not reach high enough temperatures for properly processing low-acid foods, such as green vegetables.

Instead, people should either use a pressure-canner for their green vegetables, or change the pH levels by pickling.

The session will be lecture-based, Fittro said. Attendees can expect to learn what equipment is necessary for proper processing and to receive informational hand-outs.

The course is part of a monthly series, during which certified specialists guide beginners through the planting season.

“The idea was that we would encourage people to start gardens of their own,” said Wornstaff director Elizabeth Barker. She added that community plots are also available.

Health and financial benefits have caused people’s interest in local food production to grow, Fittro said.

“I would say there is an increased desire to know where your food came from and how it was handled,” she said. “Of course, there’s also the money-saving aspect.”

While gardening can be time-intensive, the library’s program provides guidance.

The classes are “all related to what is going on in somebody’s garden now,” Barker said.

A $2,494 grant from the State Library of Ohio and a $1,450 donation provided the tools to get the program started last year, Barker said.

This is the second year of the three-year program, she added. While the library is no longer receiving funds for the program, Barker said it continues through the assistance of the Delaware County Master Gardeners and the OSU Extension Office.

The community gardening program has attracted about a dozen regular participants as well as several local organizations, Barker said.

New gardeners are encouraged to join at anytime. No payments or course registrations are required.

For information, visit ashleyfoodgardens.blogspot.com.