Unless you planted a very small garden, you’re going to have extra fruits & veggies. Though, even small gardens can be prolific producers. So, what do you do with all those extras? Read on!
This is a temporary, but useful, means of storing extra herbs, veggies & fruits. This method usually keeps your harvest good for around a year. You can blanch (parboil), precook, blend, chop or even mix your foods before freezing. If you’re taking your harvest right from garden to freezer, cut the food into chunks (or keep it whole), put it on a metal tray and pop it into the freezer. When they’re frozen, you can put the foods into air-tight containers or freezer bags. Note: some foods don’t freeze well. Do some homework before freezing.
This method preserves food safely for up to a year. Basically, canning is sealing your food in air-tight, sterile glass canning jars. Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and veggies and even jellies and jams.
SEE ALSO: Preserving
This is a great way to enjoy both your bountiful harvest and healthy water. Cut up your fruits and veggies and soak them in water. Not only will this create delicious drinking water, but you’ll get added vitamins, too! Here are a few recipes for infusing water to get you started. Remember, you can use just about any fruit and veggies, so be creative with what you’ve grown. If you love infusing water, keep it in mind when deciding what you’ll grow next year.
Juicing & Smoothies
Staying with delicious drinks, juicing and making smoothies are other healthy ways of using extra fruits & veggies. You’ll need some basic equipment: a juicer for juices (retail price about $40 – $200+) and a blender for smoothies (any good blender will do nicely). What’s the difference between juices and smoothies? Juices tend to pack an instant energy punch (no pun intended), possibly because we get the nutritional benefits faster. Smoothies retain the fiber content of your fruits & veggies, so they’ll satisfy hunger better. Whichever you choose, both are great!
Here are a couple favorites for juicing:
- Kale, pear, green apple
- Red apple, red beet, spinach, ginger
Here are a couple favorites for smoothies:
- Strawberries, blueberries, spinach
- Banana, mango, pineapple, spinach
Herbs tend to be prolific producers because you need to harvest often to keep the plants healthy. Some you’ll use fresh, but all those extras can be dried for later use. Harvest them in the morning for the best flavor and then hang them upside down in a dry, warm, well-ventilated room. When dried, you can grind them up or use them whole.
Dehydrating Fruits & Veggies
If you love dried fruits & veggies (perfect for snacks or salads!), consider investing in a food dehydrator. You can find several home and commercial models that produce excellent results. This is a popular way of preserving extras due to the wonderful flavors you’ll get and the level of skill required (not very much). Basically, if you can peel, soak and place your fruits & veggies in the dehydrator, you’re already a pro. Here’s a great article on “How to Dehydrate Fruit” and it also touches on options for choosing a food dehydrator. Some benefits of dehydrating your food are:
- It lasts longer;
- It’s healthy and tastes great;
- It saves you money in the long run;
- There’s no added sugar; and
- Kids usually love it!
If you have extra veggies that you can’t use before they spoil, make a huge pot of veggie soup! You can store it portion-sized freezer containers and enjoy it year ’round. Here’s a recipe “Tuscan Vegetable Soup” that can be customized to whatever veggies you have on hand or prefer. Have fun experimenting!
It’s a sad truth that there are people who don’t have enough to eat. They would love to have your extra harvest! Call your local homeless shelters and food banks to see if they can take it. Calling first helps make sure that you’re not giving them things they have too much of already. This is a great way to handle extra produce and helping others feels good, too!
These are some starter ideas for ways to use your extra harvest. We hope you find them helpful, delicious and easy. Enjoy!