This is the payoff. Harvest time is when all that work literally comes to fruition.
Eating summer's fresh bounty offers immediate satisfaction. But you can't eat it all now. Save some for later.
For some cooks, this is a new experience, a corollary to rediscovered interest in locally sourced produce or growing our own food.
For others, preserving fresh fruit and vegetables is a labor of love with skills passed down through generations.
"We need an identification as a region and food is it," said Shawn Harrison, founder and co-director of Soil Born Farms. "We're a food and agriculture region and that's a good thing. We need to embrace that idea and revel in our ability to grow food. I'd like to see us celebrate that more."
Soil Born Farms is among the local enterprises at the heart of Sacramento's farm-to-table movement.
Its 40-acre American River Ranch in Rancho Cordova ranks among the oldest in the area. While still bringing more plots into organic production, the farm grew more than 200,000 pounds of food in 2011.
More than 2,200 people recently participated in Soil Born's "Day at the Farm." Hundreds more attend the farm's weekend classes or watch demonstrations on gardening, cooking and preservation.
"It's so exciting to see people get excited about growing their own food," Harrison said. "We're trying to create a more edible city."
To keep up with demand, Soil Born through its partnership with the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op expanded its workshop schedule, completing that circle of food production, preparation and preservation.
Besides providing fresh produce to the co-op, local restaurants and other clients, Soil Born also is "growing" future farmers. Its apprentice program annually receives more than 100 applications.
"We're not just a farm, but also a place of learning," Harrison said.
Sacramento County's master food preservers, part of the UC Cooperative Extension, also have seen a surge in interest.
"We just graduated 22 new master food preservers," said Sacramento's Cheree Schiele, who staffed the group's information table at the California State Fair. "It's the biggest class we've ever had. It's growing."
The interest in food preservation follows the boom in backyard farming.
"So many more people need to know how to save their fruit and vegetables," Schiele said. "They garden, but they don't know what to do with it. Or they go to the farmers market or farm stands, buy a lot of fruit, but don't know how to can it when they get home."
Among the favorite items to preserve: strawberries. (Strawberry lemon marmalade was among the most popular entries at the State Fair.)
Said Master Food Preserver Susan Cresci, "We live in California. We always have great produce."
Canning is a simple skill that can take years to master.
Dan Darby Jr. of Angels Camp started canning as a hobby. With succeeding summers, he got serious. For the past five years, he's entered several homemade preserves and condiments in the State Fair, including 19 this year. He specializes in unusual combinations such as blackberry-serrano jam.
"I've made a lot of wild berries this year elderberries, gooseberries, blackberries," Darby said as he listened to the judges' critiques at the State Fair. "When fruit gets ripe, I'll pick up pears, quince and apples."
Although the basic process is easy, he keeps learning more as he perfects his preserves.
"I want to be able to sell these things someday," Darby said. "But right now, I've got a lot of Christmas gifts for friends and family."