Preserve the Taste of Summer With These 'Epic Gardening' Tips

Plus all the tools to preserve, pickle, and can your homegrown (or farm-fresh) produce.

September 18, 2023
Photo by Epic Gardening

The bland taste of a supermarket tomato is one that Kevin Espiritu manages to avoid year-round. The expert gardener grows all of his own tomatoes—plus five dozen varieties of other fruits and vegetables—from a 7,000-square-foot plot in San Diego, then shares his hard-won growing knowledge with the 2.6 million subscribers of his YouTube video series, Epic Gardening.

This September he branched out with a food-focused series for Food52 (the next episode drops September 29), and we caught up with him as was knee-deep in preserving mode, canning his own salsa. If that feels too advanced for your skillset, there are easier ways to save your homegrown tomatoes, vegetables, and herbs for winter. Below, Kevin shares his tips for making the most of canning and preserving season with the tools you have.


Freezing is probably the easiest way to preserve your fruits and vegetables, says Kevin. Before heading on vacation, he chopped his watermelon and placed it in freezer bags to pull out for future smoothies. “Watermelons are the perfect freezing plant…You can't really dehydrate watermelon.” You could even freeze tomatoes, say the experts on our Hotline, though they’ll only be good for sauce at that point. Some remove the skins before freezing, others skin them afterward. One community member likes to slow-roast tomatoes and then freeze them.


Freeze drying, says Kevin, “requires a big piece of equipment” that you don’t need in all cases. “Herbs are actually really great to just hang dry. You can just tie little bundles, hang them in a cool, dry place, and then you could grind your own spices.”

You could also keep growing herbs and leafy greens like little gem lettuce indoors this winter. “I would go with any classic herbs you like—those will last through the winter for sure.”

Quick Pickling

Slowly inching upward on the complexity scale, Kevin also recommends a quick pickle to preserve your vegetables. “You can do a quick pickle, put it in the fridge, and it'll last a couple weeks. For something like pickled red onion, that's really all you need it for.”

We have how-tos on quick pickling here, which can be applied to peppers, cucumbers, asparagus, okra—even shiso.


Though he’s graduated from water canning to a pressure canner, Kevin considers himself at the start of his canning journey. And for anyone starting out, it’s best to go back to the bible for beginner canners, the so-called Ball Blue Book, “which has all the tried-and-tested recipes, which in this case is very important to use especially when you start out, because those ones are USDA-approved safe.”

Our Hotline also recommends Putting Food By for beginner canners.

Canning your tomatoes, of course, is the ultimate way to preserve your homegrown or locally grown tomatoes. Start with this recipe that’s been a community favorite for years. (Just note that current canning guidelines now recommend two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart, versus fresh lemon juice.)

More from Food52

Do you do any preserving at home? What's your favorite method? Let us know in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Nicole Davis
    Nicole Davis
Nicole Davis

Written by: Nicole Davis

Community Editor, Food52


Smaug September 19, 2023
Canning your tomatoes is not the ultimate way to preserve them, freezing is better. This is not a gardening article.
Nicole D. September 19, 2023
Thanks for your thoughts, Smaug! These are the ways that the host of Epic Gardening preserves his harvest, with some color commentary from me that points back to our tips, tools and recipes. So you're in the freezing camp then? Do you skin them first?
Smaug September 19, 2023
Nope, I halve them and freeze them in batches of about 1 1/2 lbs. Toss the whole thing in a saucepan (no need to thaw) and bring to a boil; run through food mill and Bob's your uncle.
Smaug September 19, 2023
Also worth noting that in milder climates, many herbs and greens grow well throughout the winter. Also, I generally harvest peppers and sometimes tomatoes up until Thanksgiving, sometimes beyond. Peppers, by the way, freeze beautifully; I like to peel and seed them first, but I don't always; just throw them in a bag and freezer. They can also be dried, though by the time they're ripe it's not very good drying weather here. I do that mostly for the Mexican types.
Nicole D. September 19, 2023
Good point, I live in NY and operate with that "winter is coming" mindset! I have some tomatoes left on my one plant, but it's pretty much done. Great tip about the peppers, too, thank you!