From the computer to the garden and from the garden to the computer is how Daniel Gasteiger, author of "Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too," found himself growing a small kitchen garden and then canning and preserving the foods from it.
Gasteiger shares his experiences and advice with others on his blog at www.smallkitchengar den.net.
He came to the James V. Brown Library on Sept. 15 in support of his new book, "Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too."
With a boom in backyard gardening and eating locally grown foods, Gasteiger's book comes at just the right time.
"It seems there are a few reasons that home food preserving is rebounding in popularity. Especially if you have a kitchen garden, preserving your produce can significantly lower your cost of living," Gasteiger said.
Preserving produce in season from local vendors can save money on the grocery bill, Gasteiger said, and he has seen the results first-hand.
"I've read that young adults today are more interested in where the things they consume come from and on the impact that has on the environment," he said. "On average, food travels 1,500 miles from source to table; thankfully, more and more people recognize that buying locally-grown foods is better for the environment and better for their own communities."
Growing your own food can be more environmentally responsible and cost effective, Gasteiger added.
After taking a course on Internet marketing and creating his website, which draws a steady and growing stream of visitors, he became a Twitter user.
Gasteiger said it was a perfect place for him to network, meet other gardeners, book authors, magazine editors and TV garden show personalities. When a publisher asked if there was anyone out there who could write a book about preserving, "I raised my hand and got the job."
"The book teaches how to preserve produce through cold storage, canning, freezing, dehydrating, fermenting and quick-pickling," he said.
The book shows all those procedures step-by-step with color photos. Gasteiger said it's full of tips to help readers work more efficiently.
At the library, he brought his food preserving gear and explained to the audience why people preserve produce.
He describes the various methods of preserving, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
"Along the way, I share stories from people I've met online and I ask the audience to share their experiences and expertise," he said.
Gasteiger's gardening experience began with his parents, who lived in a rural area. The family planted and cared for their family garden.
He lived on what he called a 100-acre farm where they raised horses, grew vegetables and fruit, made maple syrup, put up oats and hay for the horses, and cut firewood to heat the house in-town and the bunk house at the farm.
"The farm was my parents' calculated effort to keep their kids away from the drug culture of the 1960s and '70s," he said.
When he left for the city, gardening ceased.
"I moved to the city for a time after I left home and grew nothing there, but the year I settled in central Pennsylvania, I planted tomatoes," he explained. "I read books about gardening from time-to-time, but I learn the most from reviewing Cooperative Extension articles online, following other gardening blogs and interacting with a huge online community of gardening enthusiasts."
His mother canned and froze a lot of produce from her garden and farm stands.
"I made my first batch of jam (plum jam) when I was in grade school - back when it was OK to pour melted paraffin on the jam to seal it in the jar," he said.
In his blog, Gasteiger said he writes about various gardening topics like: how to grow food, how to create a garden, how to harvest, what to do with the harvest and what he is harvesting now.
"Generally, I try to teach things to help new gardeners get started or solve problems they might be having in their own gardens. There's never a shortage of ideas; the garden is relentless," he said.
Preserving foods can look like a big task to take on. For the writer, eating preserved foods is a family tradition, but eating is where it stops.
Gasteiger said the hardest part of preserving produce is in the preparation.
He said he can point out ways that he can make preserving seem like less work with a few tips:
Buy a dozen ears of corn for a meal when you know you'll eat just five; Cook what you'll eat, then after dinner blanch and freeze the rest. "You'll spend only a few extra minutes in the kitchen and, if you do this every time you serve corn-on-the-cob, you'll have four or five gallons of frozen corn by the end of the season."
* Harvesting too many beans? Wash, blanch and freeze them as you harvest them. "Again: in a few weeks you can fill many gallon bags and you'll have spent only five or 10 minutes more in the kitchen for each meal.
Also: sometimes when someone tastes just the right relish, jam, jelly, pickles, chutney or sauce, home-preserving becomes imperative as it could be the only way ever to have a supply of the delicious concoction.
"So, if people TRY preserving, and they're predisposed to eating better food, reducing their own impact on the environment, supporting the local economy and being prepared for the impending zombie apocalypse - which the USDA insists hasn't started - they'll probably recognize that home preserving isn't all that egregious an activity," he said.