Everyone thinks of Spring as the time of abundance in the vegetable garden. By now, you’ll know the truth – it’s really Summer and early Autumn.
At this time of the year, the garden is full.
Most of the summer plants, such as tomatoes, capsicum and eggplant are overflowing with fruit. Cucumbers and zucchini require daily attention; otherwise we end up with fruits the size of a small car. Corn, winter squash and melons are starting to show just how abundant they will be. We’ve eaten our fill of beans, peas, broccoli, cabbage, salad leaves peppered with beetroot and radish. There’s plenty of garlic and onions. Baby potatoes. Mustards. Herbs.
The list is endless. My mouth is watering just writing about it.
However, there is another truth you have now discovered. That is, despite your best planning, if your garden is anything like ours you have more vegetables than you can eat.
The time has come to start thinking about what to do with all that extra produce.
Here are some hints.
- Preserve it
- A common way to preserve vegetables is to pickle them. There are numerous recipes and ways to treat different vegetables. Most involve salt and vinegar and liberal doses of a good olive oil. Extra flavours come from added garlic and herbs.
- Alternatively, you can sun dry or oven dry many vegetables. We’ve made a solar dryer for this purpose which saves on energy but found it is best to finish them off in the oven. Check out the internet for plans for building a solar dryer. They are pretty easy to make and generally you can do so quite cheaply with recycled materials.
- That inevitable glut of tomatoes can be processed into passata and sauce. We always end up with a cupboard full to last year round. We also cook, steam or blanch other vegetables to be frozen for later use in soups over winter and spring or made into flavoursome sauces.
- We ferment a number of our vegetables, a common practice in many cultures. So far, we’ve mostly made sauerkraut and I never thought I’d say this, but it’s yummy. Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is a must to read if you are new to fermentation. Fermenting vegetables is very easy and worth a try.
- The key to successful preserving is to preserve vegetables at their peak rather than waiting to the end of their season.
- Preserving your produce might be time consuming but it is rewarding in many ways, not the least of which is the joy of continuing to eat the fruits of your garden into the winter months and beyond.
- Root Cellar it
- Root cellaring is way to save produce without the costs associated with processing or freezing.
- When we think of a root cellar we typically think of a dark room cut into a hillside or in the basement of a house or shed. However, root cellaring can be anything from using a buried box (or even keeping a vegetable buried in the garden row).
- Some vegetables store better than others. If you intend to use this technique to keep vegetables to eat long after the harvest has ended, you will need to know the specific requirements of each vegetable.
- Compost it
- Yes, it feels like you’re throwing away food, but you have to think about it another way.
- Compost feeds your garden. Think of it as a good start on a healthy abundant garden next season.
- Donate it or swap it
- There are charities happy to receive your excess abundance. Seek them out and share your windfall. Alternatively swap your ripper tomatoes with a friend or neighbour who grows something you don’t.