Your garden is just starting to gear up and the thought of all those fresh vegetables is exciting. Sometimes though, you may end up with far more vegetables than you were expecting! It can be incredibly difficult to keep up with your garden output. So, what do you do with those extra vegetables? How can you make the most of them and save yourself some money?
Here are some simple ideas for making the most out of your garden.
1. Preservation:After spending all the money and time on your garden, the last thing you want is to waste any of that perfectly good food. Research some ways to preserve your food so that you can enjoy it during the rest of the year. Some ideas include canning, freezing, blanching, drying, and much more. Here are some specifics:
2. Snacks: Sometimes we focus too much on the bigger picture, such as: “what recipes can we use our vegetables in?” Try to use your extra veggies as snacks or in smoothies. Also, try to think outside the box. Veggies can be turned into veggie nuggets or turned into veggie “spaghetti.” There are plenty of great recipes and ideas floating around.
3. Donations: Fire departments, Human Concerns centers, police stations, Salvation Army, and assisted living centers are just a few places where people might be grateful for the fresh vegetables. If you feel unsure about bringing the vegetables, consider making a dish to share at one of these places. Don’t be afraid to call them first to see if they are interested.
4. Crafts: Remember the saying “don’t play with your food!” Well, why not? There are plenty of easy crafts you could do with your extra vegetables from the garden. Keep in mind the best ideas would be crafts that would allow your children to still EAT the food. Such as assembling pictures or designs with the food. (Did you see the cute turkey themed vegetable platters floating around online during November?)
5. Composting: Okay, so you tried really hard to eat, preserve, or gift all your vegetables, but some didn't quite make the cut. What now? Well, if you plan on gardening in the future, you could use those old (and sometimes rotting) vegetables to make a compost pile. Composting is not too difficult and can enrich your soil for future gardens. Be sure to research composting because some foods and waste works better than others. Since you may be eating food grown in the soil you want to make sure that you are not putting you or your family at risk for diseases.
6. Seed Preservation: This can be a tricky practice, but could be well worth your time. Research to see if you have a local Seed Library, they often have literature on how to preserve seeds. By following proper preservation techniques you can often save seeds from your plants and vegetables and use them to grow plants the following year. Keep in mind that some seeds/plants have been altered over time to NOT produce seeds. (Ex. Most vegetables you may purchase at a grocery store have been modified so that they do not provide viable seeds.) Heirloom plants often work best for this. Be sure to do some research and see if this is an option for you.
Planning ahead can help you make the most of the time, effort, and money you spent making your vegetable garden a success! Don't be afraid to try new things and learn new ways to utilize all those delicious home grown vegetables.