Surviving Garden Overload
There’s a recurring condition that happens every year around harvest time. It’s called garden overload. When you find yourself drowning in zucchini, overrun with tomatoes, and so tired of cucumbers you never want to see another one, you’re probably suffering from this common ailment. But don’t despair! You can find ways to use all that wonderful, fresh garden surplus that comes from growing your own garden each year.
• Share! Take a bag of extras to a shut-in, neighbor you don’t see often, a family member or church friend. Look for those who don’t have gardens of their own and they’ll be thrilled to receive your extras.
• Can it. Invest in a canner and some canning jars and start “putting up” food. You’ll have delicious produce all year long. If you can’t afford the canning supplies or equipment, check Freecycle. A friend got three large canners, a strainer and several boxes of jars from someone on her local Freecycle group.
• Freeze some. Freezing is another great way to preserve fruits and vegetables. Check the library for a good book on freezing, if you’ve never done it before. A word of caution, if your power goes out for an extended period of time, there is a chance you could lose all the food you freeze. It helps to have a small generator, or other backup plan if you decide to freeze very much.
• Start baking! Nothing can beat zucchini bread, pumpkin cake or blueberry muffins. Whip up some of your favorite recipes and freeze the results. Then when you have unexpected company or don’t feel like baking, grab one of your homemade goodies and toss it in the microwave.
• Cook up some goodies and preserve them. You can make soups, sauces, salsa, pickles and just about anything else your family eats in large batches and can them for later use. Follow proper canning guidelines for safety!
• Swap with other gardeners. If you know someone with an abundance of corn, trade some of your green beans for a few ears. You’ll both have greater variety and it will save you having to grow every potential vegetable your family would eat. There is actually a website called VeggieTrader that helps you set up local vegetable swaps. This may be an option if you can’t find someone you know to trade with.
• Sell some. Set up a roadside produce stand or take part in a local farmer’s market. All you need is a table, some plastic shopping bags (leftovers from Wal*Mart are great), and change. You’ll want to be sure you’re in the shade so you don’t get a sunburn, and you may want some small produce baskets to measure out your goods. But it’s a great way to make some extra cash, and have fun in the process!
• Donate it to someone in need. Perhaps you have a neighbor who is always struggling financially, or know of a local food pantry or shelter that could use the food. You’ll feel the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped someone else while solving a problem of your own (too much produce). What could be better than that?
• Dry ’em out. Dried tomatoes are just the thing for pizza and other dishes. And dried fruits such as blueberries make a wonderful snack. Look for recipes and instructions for drying foods and give it a try. This is an especially viable option if you go camping or hiking since dried foods are great to carry along in a backpack.
• Save a few for seeds. While you may think you never want to consider another garden, keep in mind that by next year’s harvest this abundance of food will have been eaten. If you think you might want to try again, then be sure to save some seeds from all your goodies so you can start all over in the spring.