This weekend, our frost date is finally here, and my pole green beans are more than ready to move out of their egg carton pots and into a real garden. While I planted a small garden last year, all of the veggies mysteriously died before they began to produce (I think they became waterlogged because they were at the bottom of the hill in our backyard), so this will hopefully be the first year that we have an actual harvest.
I started green beans, roma and cherry tomatoes, summer and winter squash, cantaloupe, carrots, lettuce and a few different herbs inside several weeks ago, and I also have strawberry, blueberry and raspberry plants. As we continue to look for ways to eat healthier as a family, I’m anxious to begin eating from our own garden!
Although we plan to eat a lot of the fresh produce that we pick, I also want to have a plan for what we’ll do with the extras so that we don’t end up wasting it throughout the summer when we could be sharing and saving it.
I spent the morning brainstorming with Shaina from Food for My Family about the many different things you can do to make sure none of your garden harvest goes to waste. Here’s the list we came up with:
1. Use it.
This one may seem obvious, but my plan is to begin searching for recipes that incorporate the fruits and veggies I’ve planted so that we’re not just eating carrot sticks and drinking cucumber water all summer when there’s so much more we could be doing with them.
Our neighbors have been so generous with us over the past three years, bringing us tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers from their large garden throughout each summer. I’d love to return the favor by sharing some of our berries with them, and I’ll be sharing with our family as well.
3. Can it.
This is a big one, and for me it requires some preparation ahead of time because I’ve never canned before. Not only do I need to get some mason jars to keep on hand, but I also need to do some research about how to can different vegetables and a list of anything else I need to have on hand.
4. Jam it.
This one could probably go under canning as well, but I’m going to go ahead and list it as its own option. Last year, Aimee from Under the High Chair held a virtual jam swap with more than 25 delicious jam recipes. Yum!
5. Donate it.
Check with your local soup kitchen, community charities and even your church for opportunities to donate some of your extra produce to those who might not get any fresh fruits and veggies otherwise.
6. Freeze it.
Another option for many fruits and veggies is to blanch and freeze them. Jen at How To: Simplify has a complete guide on blanching and freezing, and it’s definitely a method I want to incorporate into my plan for our harvest!
7. Gift it.
Not only can you share your harvest by giving baskets of fresh produce to your friends and family, but you can also use it to make homemade gifts such as zucchini bread, cheesecake with raspberry sauce and fresh jam.
8. Store it.
Some veggies — such as potatoes, garlic, onions and winter squash — and even some fruits can simply be stored in a cool, dark place in your basement or cellar and will keep for several months without much preparation. However, I know there are things you can do to make them last longer, such as separating any bruised apples from the rest, so be sure to read through the guidelines for the produce you plan to store before you start harvesting them.
9. Sell it
I’m guessing the laws around this vary by state, but if you have a huge overabundance of produce, you may look into setting up at a local farmer’s market or produce stand to sell some of your extras.
Have you thought about what you’ll do with the extras from your garden? What have you done in the past?