What to Do with the Extra Food From Your Garden

Year after year, gardeners struggle with the same problems. Bugs, weather, and wildlife make up a large part of a gardener’s sleepless nights. Then harvest season rolls around and a new problem arises: what to do with an abundance of crops? While some may dream of having this problem, others end up with more than they can handle. If you find yourself in this boat, we’ve gathered together ten ideas on what you can do with your extra food so it doesn’t go to waste.

1) Canning

Canning is one of the most popular ways to preserve your extra food. It does take some prep time, so be prepared to devote the better part of your day to this task. By using the canning method, you’ll be enjoying peak flavor all year long.

Instead of spending an arm and a leg at the grocery store for out of season items in the dead of winter, you can have your own stash whenever you get a craving.

2) Freezing

Freezing is a great option for storing veggies and fruits, without taking a ton of time to prepare them. Unlike canning, freezing can be as simple as washing your food, completely drying it, placing it in a bag, and throwing it in your freezer. Placing food in serving size baggies helps to ensure that you can grab just enough for dinner, preventing you from thawing more than you need.

Some people feel that you lose some flavor when freezing, as opposed to canning, but it is still a great option that is time friendly and not as labor intensive.

3) Oven Drying-Turning Up the Heat on Your Veggies

Just like grapes can be made into delicious raisins, some veggies can be oven dried into something different but just as tasty. The trick to oven drying is to make sure that all of your fruits or veggies are about the same size, so that they don’t dry out at different rates. Leave them in your hot oven (temperatures vary by food type) for several hours.

You can put them in a bag or into a sealable jar with a little olive oil and store in the fridge. Typically, they will stay good for about 6 months using this method.

4) Bake It!

While canning and freezing is usually the first solution to an abundance of food, baking your goods is another great idea. Certain fruits and even veggies like zucchini can be baked into bread and enjoyed. It can then even be placed in the freezer to extend its life by about two to three months.

5) Fruit and Veggie Swap

Do you have a ton of tomatoes but very few zucchinis? Chances are someone out there had an amazing zucchini crop this year, but their tomatoes were duds. Why not trade? Start a community Facebook page or swap site to connect with others to share your bounty with. Who knows, you just might come home with something you’ve never tried before.

6) Goodie Bags

You know how when you’re a kid and you go to a birthday party they have treat bags for all the kids that aren’t having a birthday? It’s like that, but with fruits and veggies. If you are having friends or family over fill up a bag with some of your garden-fresh veggies and fruits to hand to them as they leave. You can even throw in one of your favorite recipes on a printed card for a little something extra.

7) Donate to a Local Food Pantry

Most towns have a local food pantry or food rescue organization that accepts fresh produce to give to those in need. To find a spot where your extras will be put to good, use a Food Rescue Locator. Another great resource is AmpleHarvest.org, which connects gardeners with food pantries to eliminate food waste and hunger. As a bonus, you can even claim your donations on your taxes!

8) Cook a Meal for a Neighbor in Need

While you might be starting to get tired of eating the same fruits and veggies over and over again, your neighbor a few houses down might not be. Consider taking a dish of your favorite veggies to the elderly man in your neighborhood or even to the family across the street who just had a baby. They would most likely love a home-cooked meal starring some of the fruits of your labor.

9) Deliver a Box to Your Local Fire Department

These men and women work so hard to make sure that we are safe and what better way to show your appreciation, than with some food. Firefighters have to cook large meals multiple times a day, so your surplus will be appreciated by all. Before you stop by unannounced, make sure to call ahead and see what food they might be able to use.

10) Composting-This Year’s Spoils are Next Year’s Soil

If you have exhausted all other avenues, you can always return your food to the earth by composting it. This food can now be sacrificed to create nutritious soil for the next growing season.

There is only so much you can eat before you realize there’s no way you and your family are going to be able to eat everything your garden is producing. No matter if you store, share, or donate your extras, let us know what you do with your extra crops in the comments below!

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