If you’ve got tomatoes, squash, and lettuce growing out of your ears – or your raised beds – good on you.
Keeping up with your summer harvest can be a challenge, especially once you’ve run out of steam slicing and dicing your way through a thousand zucchini. (So. Many. Zucchini.)
Here are seven things you can do to get a handle on your harvest – and a quick primer for taking your summer garden into the fall.
1. Have Fun in the Kitchen
Looking for an excuse to expand your recipe repertoire? Now’s the chance to break out all the cookbooks, food blogs, and Pinterest recipes you’ve been stockpiling.
Even better: plan your food week around experimenting with new recipes for the ingredients overwhelming you, so nothing goes to waste.
For example, if you’re suddenly staring down a pile of butternut squash, it might be time to make butternut squash soup and try out a new pasta recipe. (Good thing plenty of veggies keep for up to a few weeks (potatoes) or months (squash) if stored properly.)
2. Throw a Farm Party
Invite your friends and neighbors over for a special kind of potluck. The catch? Instead of bringing extra food to your house, have them pick up veggies from your garden a week in advance, cook up a storm at home, then bring the dish over to share.
Everyone goes home with leftovers, you’ve used up extra veggies, and you threw a killer party. Win-win-win.
Make sure you ask for recipes of dishes you love, so you can get super good at tip #1.
3. Stop Buying Presents – You Just Grew ‘Em
Fresh produce makes an excellent gift – especially if you’re already talented at canning, pickling, making jam, or baking a picture-perfect pie. Tie a ribbon on it, and you’re good to go.
Need some more ideas for how to gift produce? Check out U.S. News & World Report for the classiest ways to dress up cukes, lettuce, and carrots the next time you’re invited to a dinner party. You can even donate to a local food pantry in need of fresh goodies!
4. Yes You Can, Can, Can
If canning makes you picture an old-timey homestead, it’s time to bring your imagination into the 21st century.
To start canning using a water-bath, you only need a few supplies – and some excellent recipes – to stock your pantry for the entire winter.
Not sure which veggies to eat now and which are best to preserve for later? The Fix has an incredible resource for first-time growers.
5. Pickle Your Peppers (and just about everything else)
Pickling isn’t just for cucumbers. You can flash pickle onions, beans, beets, and even cauliflower to add to slaws and salads once the weather turns chilly.
Looking for something a little bit more grown-up? Pickle some produce in alcohol for an incredible garnish – which, coincidentally, makes the perfect gift for all your buds on craft cocktail kicks. (Thank you, Martha.)
6. Freeze Frame
Certain fruits and veggies are perfect for deep freezing. Herbs, berries, and other treats you might not be able to enjoy during the winter keep for up to three months in your freezer.
Pack everything with care, label your freezer bags, and make a plan for getting through all that food before freezer burn steals your bounty.
7. Plant a Seed
While you’re working through your harvest, don’t compost all those seeds!
You can dry roast most squash, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds for snacks and salad toppings. Or just clean and dry them to plant for next season.
Get Your Garden Ready for Fall
Finished harvesting your summer bounty? Don’t quit just yet. With a little bit of extra TLC, you can take your garden through the fall and into winter.
Keep tabs on what veggies you should eat now, and which can withstand frost (think hearty plants like kale, squash, and cabbage), then do your best to cover your gardens with a sheet or tarp once frosty nights set in for the season.
If you’re planning far enough ahead, you can even plant lettuce, carrots, and beets about 12 weeks before the first frost of the season for salads far into the fall.
Do you use up all your veggies each year? Tell us your top tips for making the most of your garden before the first snows fly: