Monday, September 2, 2013

Garden Excess - What to do

Most decent gardens eventually produce more than you can possibly eat at the time; mine is no exception.  So what do you do with the excess vegetables that you can't immediately eat?

1. Give some away: I keep my in-laws pretty well supplied with cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans. They appreciate the fresh, organic produce and I get some "brownie points" with my wife's family.

2. Freeze:  I freeze prepared green beans to eat later. Since my kids don't eat them I freeze them in "two-portion" size bags. I put the date on the bags so that I eat them "first in first out".  I picked out the beans that were a little too ripened to eat plain and cut them up for soup ingredients. I make a lot of soup in the winter.

3. Pickle: I have made conventional pickles several times in the past but this year I just don't have the time to do it. So I tried a couple short-cuts.

    a. I sliced up cucumbers, Hungarian banana peppers, and onions and dumped them into a pickle jar. I saved the jars and pickle juice from three different flavored pickles I had bought. Now I have to say here that no respectable canning guide or food expert will recommend that you do this. But I have done it many times successfully. Make sure all the vegetables are fully covered and at least twice a day give the jar a good shake to mix the juice around the veggies. Give the mix at least a week and you'll have some nearly free pickled vegs.

    b. Onion and cucumber salad. This is an easy recipe: I  use two thinly sliced cucumbers, one thickly sliced onion (a large one or two small ones), and a thinly sliced pepper. Mix together one cup of apple cider vinegar, two cups of cold water, a half to one cup of sugar (to your taste), salt and pepper to taste, garlic if you want. Mix the vegetables in a large bowl and the pour the liquid over the veggies. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. You can start eating the mix after a couple hours but I like to wait at least a day. You can store this in the fridge for a couple weeks but mine never lasts that long (I eat it every day).

4. Dry: I dry my onions, which then lets me store them for maybe 2-3 months. I grew 50 onions and have eaten ten or so of them so I'll dry the rest and store them in mesh bags hanging so they get good air flow. I have dried excess tomatoes in the past using a food dehydrator. Then I crumble them up and add them to dishes when I am cooking. It adds a hearty, tomato flavor to any dish.  M<any people dry beans but I never have. I don't eat dried beans very often, though I do add them to soups, and I would rather eat the beans green. Maybe next year I'll grow some to dry since I did have a big open area in my garden this year.

5. Store in a "Ground Cellar": I haven't harvested my potatoes yet but I will have a pretty good crop I think. Most of your root crops can be stored in a cool (almost cold), dry space. I have an unheated cellar so I will select the best, unblemished potatoes and store them there. Properly prepared, potatoes will easily last 3-4 months and then they tend to start sprouting.

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