Each year, my garden blesses me with hefty amounts of produce. And each year, I look for new ways to use up every bit of the harvest, letting nothing go to waste.
When I was a beginning gardener, I gave much of my extra produce away when our family couldn’t eat it all. I still share a decent amount with others, but now most of my gardening efforts are put into feeding my family healthy food during the entire year. What we don’t eat fresh from the garden is saved and put away for the fall and winter months. My excess produce is canned, frozen, dried, or preserved in some way.
Yes, it’s a bit of work, and takes time, but it’s well worth it. In fact, I look at it as a critical investment in our household economy. I do this because I’m very concerned about food security. I want to make sure I have plenty of ways to feed my family in the event of an emergency, whether it is a short paycheck, a job loss, a power outage, a winter storm, or a hurricane!
Ways to Save Your Garden Bounty
Canning is an old-fashioned way of life that’s making a huge comeback even in our technology driven, modern society. Why? Canning is both a yummy and economical way to put up food for your family, and it’s also quite fun to do.
Don’t know how to can? No problem. With DVD courses and the Internet, you can learn from the comfort of your own home. I taught myself how to can and preserve food with just a Ball Blue Book and the Internet. True story.
Freezing is also a wonderful way to store food for later on. I love to freeze fresh corn, strawberries, and blueberries for my family to enjoy when the days grow cold and the garden has stopped producing these little gems. I also freeze lots of herbs and fresh pesto. We love to make our own pesto from basil from our garden and freeze it for the pasta dishes we make in the winter. Freezing extra produce is easy to do. You may find, however, that you get so addicted to this method you will want to buy an additional one or two (or three) freezers to have around the house.
You can dehydrate all sorts of foods – from herbs, to sun-dried tomatoes, down to your own beef jerky, and even complete meals in a bag! All you need is a little bit of knowledge, and a dehydrator. However dehydrating can also be done with just a pan and an oven, and sometimes just the sun! Your kids will love homemade fruit leathers and you will love knowing they are eating good, fresh, homegrown food that isn’t filled with preservatives and additives.
If you invest in a dehydrator, they are extremely easy to use. Just slice up your veggies, or place your items in the dehydrator, plug it in for about 24-48 hours, and go about your business. You’ll have all sorts of easy-to-store healthy snacks in no time. Imagine putting fresh dried oregano on your homemade pizza in the dead of winter. It tastes so much better than store-bought!
4. Do good…give some away.
While I do keep probably 80-90% of what my garden produces, I do try to give some away to family, friends, and neighbors. This helps educate others about the importance of food security and eating locally. Believe it or not, my little garden has inspired several of my neighbors and friends to plant something of their own, even if it is just a single tomato plant. I think that’s a great thing.
Some gardeners like to give their extra produce away to church food pantries, soup kitchens, and other agencies who help feed the needy. I think this is a fabulous idea – but be sure to check local regulations, as many of these agencies have to turn away fresh food if it doesn’t come from a “preferred” vendor such as a grocery store. (Sad, isn’t it?)
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