Q: Why is a non-canning gal like me often seen leaving the hardware store with flats of mason jars?

A: Oh, the versatile mason jar! Glorious in its unpretentious simplicity! Mason jars, also known as fruit jars, can be used for storing dry staples (nuts, legumes, grains), as vases for cut flowers, as containers for forcing bulbs (such as paperwhite narcissus, which tend to tip over), as pencil holders, for storing coin collections, or as organizers for odds and ends (from screws and nails to lipsticks, cotton balls, and sewing supplies). The tinier jars are excellent for dried spices; the taller ones can hold pasta in that upright fancy-schmancy way. I once hosted a casual summer cookout and realized that I didn’t have enough matching glasses. I didn’t want to create a lot of waste by using plastic or paper cups. Mason jars to the rescue! My cookie jar? A big mason jar. My child’s piggy bank? Mason jar. And, speaking of cash, a cool old mason jar at a garage sale may be a collector’s item. According to an eBay guide written by a jar collector, a mason jar in a rare color such as dark cobalt with an original lid could fetch more than $12,000.

Eat Where You Live book cover"Eat Where You Live" 

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From "Eat Where You Live", Copyright © 2008 by Lou Bendrick. Used by arrangement with The Mountaineers Books.

Why I'm a jarhead
Even if you're not brave enough to try canning your food, mason jars deserve a spot in everyone's home.