Saturday September 19, 2015: Updated 4/30/2016

Time and Labor Saving Tools

When people ask me how I keep the weeds out of my garden, I tell them about my secret weapon. E&O and Hula Hoe. 

Harvesting and preserving food from your vegetable garden, fruit trees and grape vineyard can be rewarding but is often very time consuming and labor intensive. Here are some tools that will make the job go a lot faster.

Juicer/grinder attachments:
These come as stand alone units or as attachments for other kitchen appliances and range in price from $50 to $250. I bought this one.

It attaches to the Kitchen Aid and works great for quickly juicing tomatoes.

Tomato juice/sauce
No need to blanch and peel the fruit. Just feed in large, raw, quartered tomatoes or whole Roma or cherry tomatoes into the hopper. Like magic, out one end will come the peels and seeds. Out the other, thick tomato juice. 

It only takes about 15-20 minutes to produce over 1 gallon of raw tomato juice/sauce. From there you can process the juice into jars using a large pressure cooker or refrigerate/freeze for later. 

An added benefit of bottling tomato juice is the water and sauce will separate inside the bottle. 

This tomato juice came from small, cherry tomatoes that have a high water content . 

This allows you to either use as-is in soups or drain off the water and use the remaining thicker sauce on pizzas, lasagnas and even in home-made ketchup.

Apple Sauce

Cut fresh apples into quarters and steam for about 20 minutes in a large pot. From there you simply scoop them into the hopper, skins, cores and all. Out one end comes the apple sauce, all ready for eating or bottling. Out the other end comes the skins and seeds.

Grape Steamer:

If you have grapes and want to juice them, grape steamers are a huge time saver. We bought this one.

Fill the top pot with fresh bunches of grapes. Steam for 30-60 minutes. During that time, juice will slowly percolate down the tube and into a jar or other container. Each batch of grapes will yield about 4-5 quarts of grape juice.

From there you process the jars of grape juice in a water-bath for 25-30 minutes to make the juice suitable for drinking. 

Wheat Grinder and Box Fan:

Cracking sunflower seeds one at a time is a ridiculously labor intensive process. Luckily there is a much easier way. On the wheat grinder, (for this we use a slower mill), set the grinding wheels to their widest setting. Run the sunflower seeds through. What comes out is a combination of cracked sunflower hulls and shelled seeds, (mostly un-broken).

Lightly pour this combined mess of seeds and hulls into the wind of a large fan on low, medium or high speed. If the wind speed is just right, the dense seeds will fall strait down into a collection bowl while the lighter hulls will be blown away, falling outside the bowl. You will have to do this a few times but eventually, what remains will be just seeds with very few hulls.

This Box fan winnowing technique also works for separating small mustard seeds and dry beans (black, white, soy, red and pinto) from the broken chaff of their pods.

10 lbs of hard, red and white beans after about 5 minutes of winnowing. 
In hindsight, don't grow different beans in the same row, that way you can harvest them separately.

Added 1/31/2015: Food Dehydrator

We found this Excalibur 9-tray food dehydrator/yogurt maker. 


Not only does it dehydrate food but it can also create the right temperature conditions for making huge quantities of yogurt at a time. We now make yogurt in 1 gallon batches and use it plain, in smoothies, on granola and as sour cream substitute in recipes. 

Next Article: Food Preservation