In the following sentence, what does the phrase put up mean?

I watched her put up peaches and tomatoes, placing jar after jar of jewel-colored fruits and vegetables on the basement shelves.

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    It means "can": to put in a can : preserve by sealing in airtight cans or jars.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 25, 2018 at 12:18
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    @HotLicks Is it not just "put them on the shelf" in this context? I've never heard put up being used in the sense of preserving. Jul 25, 2018 at 13:30
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    @OliverMason - The idiom "put X on the shelf", in the US, means to store something away with the understanding that it will likely never be used again. If you put your old computer "on the shelf" you probably don't expect to ever take it off again (at least until they move you into the old folks home).
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 25, 2018 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


Comment from Hot Licks

It means "can": to put in a can : preserve by sealing in airtight cans or jars.

As a native English speaker, I would have never known that - even with the (limited) context of the quotation. I assumed it just meant, literally, putting them up, on the shelves.

This seems to be US (southern US?) slang; for example: Preserve The Season and "Put Up" Some Peaches

As the phrase is in quotation marks in that article, I assume it is not very common or is acknowledged as informal.

  • Prior to the advent of freezers, the only ways to preserve foodstuffs were to can them or dry them. The metaphor referenced by "putting up" is the act of placing a "can" (what's now referred to as a "canning jar") on a shelf.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 25, 2018 at 12:56
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    Not restricted to the South: bklynlocavore.com/2013/07/11/bourbon-sour-cherries
    – KarlG
    Jul 25, 2018 at 13:19
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    Of course this is only one interpretation—and the least common. More commonly, put up would mean to literally put them up on the shelves . . . (It makes no sense to ask somebody, "Can you put these up for me?" in a canning sense when discussing any number of other objects.) Jul 25, 2018 at 16:33
  • @JasonBassford - Actually, the most common use of "put up" in the US is likely in sentences such as "I simply can't put up with that idiot brother-in-law of mine any more."
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 25, 2018 at 19:06
  • @HotLicks but that makes no sense in the context, while both the literal and the canning interpretations do.
    – user184130
    Jul 25, 2018 at 21:46

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