How to Handle the Harvest
So you’re drowning in vegetables?! It’s that time of year! A few things to keep in mind: a. You likely chose this situation (signing up for the CSA, planting the garden, buying at the Farmers’ Market/Farm Stand, leaving your car door open), b. It can be managed, c. You are not alone! Welcome my friend, we’re in the same club.
There are options for how to handle the overabundance that is likely pushing against your fridge door’s capability to seal (or is this just my fridge?). Eat right now, eat soon, or preserve/prepare for later consumption, or find a new home – these are the options we’ll be addressing.
Eat Right NOW
Salsa – Fresh garden salsa might be one of the reasons I survive winter each year. The gorgeous variety of tomatoes and peppers can wow any audience. *Plus, you can can OR freeze salsa!
Fresh salsa made with this week’s CSA tomatillos, tomatoes, & more.
Salad – A term that means so many different things – lettuce or greens based with lovely add-ons, mayonnaise or sour cream based, vinegar or lime/lemon juice coated, or a splash of oil. However you like to eat your salads, now is the time for creativity. Challenge yourself and your family to try 2 new salad recipes/combinations this week.
Soup – Whether trying to utilize an overabundance of any one veg (potato, onion, squash, tomato) or making a medley, soup is a superb way to eat your garden bounty. Don’t forget about stock either. This time of year as you are preparing fresh veg for meals keep the veggie scraps in the freezer to be simmered into vegetable stock for future soups!
Juices & Smoothies – Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone. That being said, an entire fridge worth of vegetables can juice down to a couple of quarts! Try different smoothie and juice recipes. Drinking your food can be a fun switch up!
Crudite (Fancy for cut veggies & dip) – Hummus, Roasted Red Pepper Dips, and the old standbys Ranch and Dill can make many a veggie disappear. Make a meal out of dunking veggies, like fondue but raw!
Casserole – If all else fails, fall back on your MN roots (in which case you may use the term Hotdish). Drench those veggies in a sauce cover ‘em with cheese and bake them in the oven. There are ways to make healthier casseroles though you may want to keep this as the “splurge” meal in the week.
Fridge Pickles – Cucumbers aren’t the only pickling veg. A batch of fridge pickles can contain green beans, radishes, zucchini, peppers, carrots, snap peas, and more.
Fermented Veggies (Curtido, Sauerkraut, …) – Turn cabbage, herbs, and veggies into a fun meal topper or side by fermenting them.
Red/Purple cabbage makes a gorgeous sauerkraut!
Infusions – Dropping herbs and veg in oil will help season the oil and preserve the vegetables. Play around with infusing vinegars too.
Freeze – Perhaps the simplest of the longer-term preservation techniques, freezing, requires one big thing – space. If you don’t have an auxillary freezer, this might not be the best option for you. The freezer attached to your fridge is a great option for small batches or one-offs but it won’t likely hold all the garden bounty.
Frozen green beans & corn from 2018 harvest.
Depending on the vegetable, freezing can be as quick and easy as wash, cut, and bag. It may alternatively require blanching before freezing. The internet will be happy to answer your inquiry about what each vegetable needs.
Can – Whether you are canning an individual item or canning prepared items there is a lot to be won by canning. Shelf life is not the least of which. Canning takes time and can be a little scary, but the results are ever so tasty. From relishes to sauces, to pickles and butters – there are bundles of options for later in the year eating.
Canned relishes from 2017 harvest!
Dry – Using a dehydrator or the oven – herbs, tomatoes, cucumber (yes!), peppers, apples, and even pumpkin can be made into chips, soup additions, dried spices, or dried powders! Think creatively about what can be dried.
Shelf or Cold Storage – There are a few vegetables that after proper curing (drying on racks, newspaper, or hanging) will be happy to chill out (for at least a little while) till you can get to them. Depending on the variety, potatoes, onions, squash, and garlic are among these. Like your grandparents root cellar, there are also ways to DIY or buy cold storage set-ups. These help keep humidity at the proper level and temps lower for longer rot-free storage.
Re-Homing The Veg.
Food Shelf – Call ahead to see if they are interested, when you can drop off, and what condition they’d like the produce in.
Senior Center/Senior Assisted Living – Do they provide meals and want more veg? Or do they have tenants that enjoy cooking and would love garden fresh bounty?
Community Food Offerings (Soup Kitchens, Teen Centers) – Do they provide meals and want more veg?
Community Stews/Festivals – In Pine River each fall is “Heritage Days”, during which a free “Hobo Stew” is shared with community members. The stew is prepared by a gals group at a local church and the vegetables are donated by anyone/everyone. Perhaps your town/community has something similar? If not, maybe it’s time to start a new tradition like a BooYa in your neighborhood or a Harvest Dinner at your house?
Farmers’ Markets – At the Pine River Market Square Growers’ & Crafters’ Market there is a Community Booth. At this booth local growers can drop off veg to be sold on their behalf. A small cut goes to the Market. OR if you just want it to go to a good home, consider donating it to be sold with the proceeds going back into the Market. *They’ll want to know how your grew the crops as customers will ask for that information. Check with your local market to see if they offer such options.
Side of the Road – A FREE sign can do wonders.
Social Media Posts – “Hey Friends, I’m up to my “ears” in corn. Come pick some up.”
This list is certainly not comprehensive but hopefully gives you some ideas and strategies for how to proceed with your produce! Have you got a tried and true or favorite strategy? Share in the comments!