If you grow your own vegetable garden, you’re likely familiar with end-of-season surplus. As harvest time approaches, you may find that you have more vegetables than you can use.
It seems like a shame to throw away produce, especially when you’ve worked so hard to grow it. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to make sure your extra garden vegetables don’t go to waste.
1) Preserve Your Produce
Pickling is a simple (and delicious) way to keep your extra produce from going to waste. You can pickle your vegetables in a couple hours, and once sealed, they’ll last on your shelf for up to a year or more. There’s also a lot of room to get creative with flavors when you pickle.
You can start pickling today with a few Mason jars and some basic herbs and spices.
2) Vacuum Seal and Freeze
A vacuum sealer is an invaluable tool for the harvest season. If you vacuum seal and freeze your extra produce, it will be almost completely protected from moisture, oxygen, and heat. As a result, it will keep almost indefinitely. Vacuum-sealed, frozen produce stays good for years.
You can find a vacuum sealer at your local home improvement or general retail store. All you have to do is wash and chop up your produce (if it’s larger, like squash; smaller produce like green beans can be frozen whole), put it in a bag, seal it, and place it in your freezer. That’s it!
3) Give Produce to Neighbors
Extra fruits and vegetables are also a great way to get closer to your neighbors and foster a stronger local community.
Put together little bundles of fruits and vegetables and take them over to the houses in your neighborhood. It’s a great way to introduce yourself (and it may come in handy the next time you need help jumpstarting your car).
4) Sell Your Veggies
Why not make some money off your extra produce? Many local farmer’s markets will rent out a booth for a nominal fee, giving you a chance to sell excess fruits and vegetables for profit.
Most farmer’s markets will also let you sell homemade baked goods, preserves, and other food items, so if you’re handy in the kitchen, you can turn your surplus produce into premade goods and bring in more money. You may even find that you really enjoy selling your food, in which case a farmer’s market booth can turn into a nice little year-round side business.
5) Make Your Own Compost
If all else fails and you find you have produce that’s no longer edible, your best bet is to make it into compost.
Composting is a simple, low-effort, inexpensive way to ensure that next year’s garden is exceptional. Homemade compost is one of the best ways to enrich your soil and provide your plants with the nutrients they need to grow.
You can compost in your backyard with minimal investment of time and money. You can also compost through winter if you start in autumn. You’ll have nutrient-dense compost ready by the time spring arrives -- perfect to start off strong with the first crops of the year.