Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Gardeners take a taste of the four seasons of a garden

by on August 17, 2014 1:54 AM

In a quaint little section of J.S. Mack Community Center, at the corner of Carter Avenue and South Sixth Street, lies the Indiana Community Garden, boasting produce planted and harvested by community members.

Garden beds with sprouting fruits and vegetables and the foliage of intertwining flowers fill the site, drawing the attention of passers-by.

In this colorful garden, Jodie Seybold and Nicole Dann of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania department of food and nutrition, with the help of IUP dietetic interns, hosted a Friends of the Parks event for participants to “Taste the Four Seasons of a Home Grown Garden.”

Dann and Seybold have been giving food demonstrations in the garden since late in the summer of 2012. Last summer, they assisted with the Community Garden for the Friends of the Parks “Taste and Tour” event. “Taste the Four Seasons of a Home Grown Garden” is the first Friends of the Parks event that they planned on their own.

The demonstration, which was held Aug. 9, focused on food preservation techniques.

“We decided to focus on this topic because we’ve noticed many people want to know what they’re eating and what’s in their food,” Dann said. “So, what better way to know exactly what you’re eating than starting your own garden and preserving your own food?”

Food preservation allows food grown in season to be kept throughout the year with three different techniques: canning, drying and freezing. The growing seasons differ, according to Seybold.

“The growing season can last all year depending on what you are planting,” Seybold said. “But the main summer and fall plants are started in early spring and then planted in the ground around the end of May, though depending on the fruit or vegetable, it is planted and grows at different times.”

For their demonstration, Dann and Seybold focused on spring, summer and fall produce.

Preserving food through canning stops natural spoilage by applying heat. Food is often canned in a jar, using the lid to remove air and create a seal.

Drying food eliminates bacteria, yeast and mold through dehydration.

Drying can be used to make powders and spices, as well as jerky. Dried items have a long shelf life and are easy to pack.

Freezing food inhibits spoilage through lower temperatures. Often food can be frozen for up to a year, depending on the ingredients.

At the event, a station for each technique offered information and tips, and participants moved freely from station to station, learning new techniques and tasting nutritious recipes.

The Rockin’ Salsa left tastebuds tingling at the canning station, while the blueberry leather, which Dann described as a “healthy fruit roll-up,” satisfied the sweet tooth at the drying station. Participants could try a refreshing treat at the freezing station, such as strawberry-mint freezer jam.While there are many benefits to a home-grown garden, such as control over ingredients, accessibility to produce, and a healthy lifestyle, it is not necessary to use home-grown products for the recipes showcased at the program, and freezing, canning and drying food reaps many benefits by themselves.

“You can mix and match your fruits and veggies when you are freezing them,” Seybold said. “You can use smaller containers, bags and canning jars for portion control, and parents can make their own fresh baby or toddler food and then freeze it. The possibilities are endless.”

Visitors at the event also walked around the flourishing Community Garden, enjoying the warm summer day.

The opportunity to raise plants at the Community Garden is available to all, allowing those without a yard or garden of their own the opportunity to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables. Visit for more information.

Friends of the Parks programs are held yearly throughout the Indiana area. All of the programs are made possible by member contributions and donations.

For more information, to find future events, or to learn more about membership or donations, visit



Read more: Clip and save these recipes recommended by the IUP Food and Nutrition Department


The steps you need to know, at a glance...

Drying tips

• Dried fruit can be eaten as snacks or soaked for 1 to 2 hours and used in recipes.

• Apples, apricots, pears and bananas dry well.

• Healthy fruit leathers can be made from overripe fruit.

Freezing tips

• Always clean your produce before freezing to ensure it is free of insects and contaminants.

• Avoid placing anything hot in your freezer, as this can raise the temperature of the entire freezer, causing items to thaw slightly.

• Use ice cube trays to freeze pureed fruit to add extra vitamins, minerals and fiber to a drink.

Canning tips

• To ensure that a jar is sealed tight, push on the top-center of each lid. If it is not sealed, it will push back up after you apply pressure.

• Do not reuse canning lids for re-canning. Once you break the seal on a canned product, it becomes less reliable.

• Rings should be removed from the cans when storing to help easily spot bulging cans. If a canning lid is bulging or has lost its seal, immediately throw the food away as it is likely to be contaminated.


Kayla Cioffo is a Staff Writer at The Indiana Gazette and a May 2015 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations. At the Gazette she covers Saltsburg Borough Council and a variety of general assignments. She can be reached at
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