We should all be so lucky as to have an over-abundance of produce coming from our gardens, and frankly, those who do are people whom I envy. Many of us crop cultivators struggle at the beginning, working to yield a handful of tomatoes or cucumbers, but eventually, all that effort does translate into a bounty. Sometimes, it’s just too much for one person, even one family, to eat at one time. But, that’s far from being a problem.
For a second, let’s be confident. Let’s be hopeful. Let’s presume that our gardens this year will provide more food than we ever imagined, a harvest so plentiful that the thought of another freshly plucked sweet pepper just sours our faces. What a life!, folks will say, but we are left scratching our heads as to what will we do with all these vegetables. Let us scratch no further. Here’s what to do with that ridiculous abundance.
Dehydration is not just for jerky and fruit. Lots of vegetables take really well to being dehydrated, and they can be stored this way for months, long enough for a gardener to regain the taste for sweet potatoes or tomatoes. What’s more, is that dehydrating completely changes the texture and intensifies the flavor of stuff. Kale and sweet potatoes become chips. Tomatoes become compact bursts of deliciousness. Fresh herbs make it to the pantry for the leaner months. Seasoning vegetables — onions, celery, carrots, garlic — can be dried and ground into seasoning powders. The dehydrator is a great way to preserve the abundance for the months to come.
Another natural method of food preservation is fermentation, and it comes with great probiotic benefits that’ll keep our guts healthy. Fermentation is a primo way to deal with an abundance of apples (hard apple cider and homemade apple cider vinegar). It’s a great use for cabbages and carrots and onions and cucumbers and radishes and anything else we might throw into a sauerkraut recipe. Fermenting is very easy, has benefits beyond just preserving the harvest, and makes the kitchen and/or pantry look amazing, with potions bubbling everywhere.
Some folks make canned pickles — putting food into an acidic solution, like vinegar — for longevity, but a good pickle can be pretty hard to resist for long. Instead, it can be done by soaking veggies in vinegar, infused with some fresh herbs from the garden, for a few days in the fridge. While many of us picture gherkins when we think of pickles, lots of things take well to vinegar. Greens beans, beets, okra, tomatoes, cauliflower, onions and even watermelon rinds are all common elements for tasty pickling. Pickles are great additions to stews, salads, and sandwiches.
Nothing says neighborly like showing up next door or at work with a bag full of fresh produce for a friend or a stranger. Don’t let that overabundance of lettuce or chard go bad. Pluck a bag or two to share around. It’ll save someone some cash, provide them with a healthy boost, and perhaps even encourage more gardening. What’s more, those who share their garden goodies are instantly top-tier folks to know, the exact kind of people we all like to do nice things for in return. What goes around comes around.
If the garden pull is just so big that no family could ever consume it all on their own, well, invite another family over. A great harvest is (and has always been) a sound reason to have a huge feast, not to mention a subtle way to show off all the success that gardening project has had. Grill some eggplant. Sautée those green beans. Whip up a potato salad. Make a pesto pasta. Let some other people enjoy the fresh fulfillment that comes right from the backyard.
As important as making use of the harvest is ensuring that there will be one next year. That can be accomplished by leaving things to ripen on the vine or to go to flower in order to collect seeds. It’ll save money for gardens to come, and it puts us all a step closer to self-sustaining systems, pushing against the patents of big ag companies like Monsanto, who have gone to lengths to completely control our food supply. Seeds help us take it back.
Over-abundance! We should count ourselves lucky. Making the most of it is a pleasure for the palate, a boost to our health and an easy way to make new friends. We should all be planting more than we need.
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