So, you have a garden and you have been fortunate enough to produce so much food that you literally cannot keep up with eating all of it. What do you do once it starts to go bad? How are you going to preserve and store it to make it last longer?
Honestly, for us, we always plant more then we need to begin with so we can preserve for the winter. There is nothing like your own home grown produce in the winter. Besides, it saves money in the long run too.
If your wondering what to do with all of those tomatoes, or that crap ton of cucumbers that you cannot keep up with then hopefully some of these idea’s can help you to get the most out of your garden this year.
- Canning: Yes, I know this seems obvious and broad, but there are a ton of things that you can make from tomatoes and then can for the winter. If your not into just eating a ton of canned tomatoes in your pasta or chili, make a salsa, pizza sauce or Italian spaghetti sauce to can as well. Generally those canning lids keep well for about 18 months or more. If your family is big on any of those foods, you will be glad you made yourself some home made sauce for quick meals during the winter days. It will almost feel like cheating.
- Make fresh salsa: Salsa has by far got to be one of my favorite uses for tomatoes. I am a sucker for hot salsa, so if your planning on growing hot peppers and other great salsa additives, get creative in the kitchen and throw everything in the blender. Or you can just quick chop your tomatoes for a delicious Pico. I am sure you won’t have a hard time finding a recipe on Pinterest.
- Dehydrate them: I cannot tell you how much I love sundried tomatoes. If your planning on drying some of your tomatoes, keep in mind the best tomatoes for “sundried” are either grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. But if you want to dry a large tomato, slice it into thin pieces and top it with herbs and spices for a quick crunchy snack! We use a ton of sundried tomatoes in our sauces and pasta’s so drying our own comes in handy as the store bought one’s can be pricey and full of preservatives. If your not into vegan cheeses or sun dried tomato basil pasta then blend them up after you dry them to make a powder and mix it with water for a paste when needed. Get creative!
- Tomato Basil Soup: The best tomato soup I have ever had has been the home made stuff. It beats canned tomato soup any day. Roast your tomatoes in the oven with onions, garlic, basil and other desired spices for about 50 minutes on 400F. Remove it from the oven and blend with desired milk or broth and serve with your favorite crackers.
- Canning: I always thought it was odd that almost all other canned veggies were called pickled ginger, pickled beets, pickled whatever’s but pickled cucumbers are just called pickles. It is an odd idea, but one worth pondering. The first and most wonderful and favorite way to use cucumbers is to pickle them. I love to make garlic pickles, spicy pickles and spicy garlic pickles and we never have a problem going through them. If you have a ton of cucumbers and you aren’t much into pickles, make some for your family. There is nothing better then a home made gift of fresh dill pickles.
- Juicing: I LOVE cucumber juice. As someone who follows the medical medium and some of his wonderful health food suggestions. Cucumber juice is one of his suggested healing food’s. There are many delicious and wonderful healthy, healing qualities of a cucumber and by juicing them we can get more into our lives. Cucumber’s are wonderful juiced with apple’s and lemon’s and they make for a wonderful cold pressed juice first thing in the morning.
- Cucumber Salad: Most people don’t like to eat salads, but a creamy cucumber salad is a different story. There are a ton of recipes on the internet for creamy cucumber salads. Some of them use vinegar and some of them use sour creams. Whatever your taste bud’s prefer, making a cucumber salad can be a great way to use a ton of them.
- Cucumbers and Hummus: Although this isn’t really a way of preservation, I still find it a good way to eat more cucumbers. Cucumbers dipped with hummus instead of crackers is not only a great way to cut some extra calories from your day, but it’s a great way to eat more cucumber!
- Stuffed Peppers: Again, this isn’t a way to preserve your peppers but it is a great way to make use of a bulk of pepper’s at once. I absolutely love making stuffed peppers for our family and we always make enough to have left overs the next day. Sometimes, if you make enough, you can use up to 7-10 peppers for one dinner! I would rather use all garden peppers then go to the store to buy that many.
- Blanch and Freeze: I prefer not to use this method and I hardly do because I usually don’t find too much of an issue using my peppers before they go bad but if your highly overwhelmed with peppers this is an option. Slice your peppers into whatever sizes you want to freeze them. Dice them for soups or slice them for stir fry. Blanch your peppers in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool. Place your peppers in a freezer safe bag and be sure to seal them so they won’t get frost bitten. If you have an old food saver that has a vacuum sealer, that works PERFECT!
- Pickled Peppers: I used to panic when I would get so many hot peppers from my garden. Although I typically enjoy one with just about every meal, I still have a hard time keeping up with all of them once they really start producing. One can only stand a spicy mouth for so long. Just like your pickled cucumbers, pickling jalapenos can be just as easy and rewarding. They go good on nachos and in sauces and are a great way to preserve them.
- Dehydrating: This method has it’s limits for use, but if your in a pinch dry them. You can use them to liven up a spicy soup in the winter month’s when you need some extra warmth.
- Jalapeno Poppers: There are never enough jalapeno poppers when you order them at a restaurant or buy them from the store, so why not pig out and make a meal of poppers at home? There are plenty of recipes to keep you busy and using them pepper’s for popper’s for a few day’s.
- Dehydrating: Yep, dry them. You know the pepper flakes that you douse on your pizza slices? Well, here is some home made for you. When you have an abundance of cayenne pepper’s dry them and pulse them in a blender for pepper flakes to warm up any future meal.
- Make Cayenne Pepper Powder: This step requires the first step of drying and some careful glove wearing extraction of the seeds. If your into cayenne pepper powder rather then pepper flakes then remove the seeds from the peppers after they are dried and blend it up until it is a fine powder. Remember, don’t stand to close to the blender when you open the lid though, you may gas yourself out.
- Canning: I have never canned green beans personally because I never have a problem eating the ones we have but I know there are a ton of ways you can preserve them through canning. Some people make garlic green beans and others pickle them. If you have never tried pickled green beans then your opt to try it once in your life. You may be surprised at the satisfyingly crunchiness it offers when you bite into one.
- Baked Green Bean Meals: Green Bean Casserole, Baked Maple Green Beans, Steamed Green Beans you name it. There are ton’s of meals that you can make with green beans. Just don’t go blank. You have fresh green beans for once in your life, make the best of it by preparing a bomb meal with them! No shame in eating green beans for dinner.
- Dehydrating: Although tedious, this method works great if you want to use them in a soup in the future. Just remove them from the shells and dehydrate until completely dry. Store them in a glass sealed container until your ready to use.
- Blanching and freezing: Since pea’s are so small, this can be annoying but well worth the easy meal fix in the future. Just like the peppers, blanch your pea’s in boiling water for a few minutes, remove and let cool and place in a freezer tight bag in the freezer until ready to use.
- Salads: Whether were talking a leafy green salad or just a creamy pea salad, either way you decide to use them is up to you. Personally I enjoy raw sweet pea’s on a leafy green salad, but if your looking to use them in one of those creamy pea salads all you have to do is steam them bad boy’s.
- Blanching and Freezing: Since we don’t want whole corn on the cob in the freezer we need to first do our best at removing the kernels from the cob before we freeze them. Cut off the corn, blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes and place in a freezer tight and sealed bag until ready to use. Cook frozen corn however you would cook the frozen corn from the store.
- Dehydrating: Again, I am not talking about dehydrating the entire cob here. Remove the kernels from the cob and place in the dehydrator until completely dry. Store in a glass sealed container in a cool dry place until ready to use. Dried corn would be great used in soups or stir fry.
- Mexican Street Corn: Although this sounds odd, it is a great and delicious way to eat corn. We have made entire meals of corn on the cob before and we weren’t ashamed of the carbs. ( No Shame. ) If you have never heard of Mexican street corn before then I would encourage you try it. There are a ton of recipes on the internet for it but our favorite way to prepare it is with a vegan mayo, hot sauce, cumin, chopped cilantro and lime juice. I know this sounds terrifying, but believe me when I tell you it will change your life.
- Apple Juice: Fresh pressed apple juice is a treat in this house. Although we don’t own producing apple tree’s of our own yet, we have family members who have 100 year old tree’s that are more then generous when it comes to producing. Just in time for the season, they produce ton’s of apples for us to use for juice, cider and more.
- Apple Cider: Make your own home made apple cider. There are ton’s of recipes on the internet and how-to-video’s for this as well. Don’t be afraid. It’s all worth it.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: A wonderful way to save your apples is to make a vinegar of them. Apple Cider Vinegar is a great multiuse product. I am sure you have heard of it before and it is super easy to make.
- Apple Sauce: Just like apple juice, apple sauce is a great way to use a ton of apples and don’t worry about having to eat a ton of it at once. You can either give it away or can it for a later time.
- Cinnamon Apple Chips: Dehydrate your apples with cinnamon and coconut sugar for a delicious treat. These apple chips are a great alternative to those terrible junk foods you find in the store and there are ton’s of recipes on Pinterest you can find too!
- Carrot Juice: Don’t cringe. It’s delicious and it’s good for you and having too many carrots is your best excuse for juicing them.
- Dehydrate: A super easy way to save those orange carrots is to slice and dehydrate them. Use them in future soups or stews during the winter months.
- Can them: I have personally not canned my carrots before, but if your looking for a better way to preserve them then dehydrating them, your go to is throwing them in a canning jar and saving them on a shelf for thanksgiving dinner.
Pumpkins and Squash:
- Cold Storage: Generally pumpkins and squash will stay good in a cool dark place like a basement for quite a few months if not tethered by dampness. So if you have a basement available to you, place your squash in a cardboard box on some shredded newspapers for air flow in the basement until ready to use.
- Dry pumpkin seeds: Usually any squash seed you can save. There are a ton of recipes for saving and baking flavored seeds for a delicious snack!
- Canning: Of course the go-to is always canning. If you can your pumpkin you can use it pies and soups at a later date
- Butternut soup: Butternut Squash makes for a delicious soup. You can make a ton of it and freeze some for a later date.
- Pumpkin Pasta Sauce: Do not judge this. It is very delicious and it is totally a thing. Again, there are tons of recipes and you can make and can the sauce for a later time if needed.
- Drying: I honestly don’t know why more people don’t grow and dry their own herbs. Herbaceous plants are the most giving plants I have ever tended too. They produce a ton and they are super easy to store. I always collect and air dry my herbs for the best quality. Once they are dry I pulse them in a food processor or blender and store them in sealed jars for the winter. Easiest most flavorful food for the winter and it’s a great way to reap healthful rewards from your plant’s too. Try to avoid using a dehydrator for drying herbs. Any low heat to the herb will cause it to lose its flavor and potency. Drying your herbs in a cool, dark, breezy hallway is by far the best method for drying. Just don’t leave them there long enough to collect dust.
Although I have not obviously covered every vegetable that could be grown in a garden, I hope that this article could give you some good insight on how to preserve and save some of those precious veggies and fruits for winter months! Enjoy ❤