Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Gardens Gone Wild

Growing a garden can be likened to raising children. The garden starts out as a raised bed full of sweet little seedlings planted four to a row (which at the time seems like way too large of a spacing), and then four months later they turn into teenagers: wild, messy, unwilling to listen to what you want them to do, and bursting with hormones (or vegetables in our case).

My Crazy Garden

Patty Pan Squash, Anyone?
My patty pan squash plants have taken over the lower part of my garden, and have totally put the zucchini plants in their place. I guess the zucchini's are finally getting a taste of their own medicine, since they are usually the ones to overtake the garden. My entire raised bed is now filled with volunteer tomato plants from last years crop of one very prolific tomato plant. I began to get the same overwhelming feeling I get every year at this time. Too many veggies to eat, so what to do with them all? If you are in the same situation, have no fear. I have come up with a few strategies so that no veggie goes to waste.

1. Start asking neighbors, co-workers and friends if they would like some of your excess produce. Not everyone has a garden and they would surely appreciate the delicious and free food.

2. Start a garden co-op with other like-minded local gardeners. "Have too many zucchini? My zucchini didn't do well this year, but I have been eating green beans for a month straight and am sick of them now. Let's trade!"

3. Buy a dehydrator or use your oven to dehydrate veggies. I have dehydrated zucchini in the past, and this year I plan to dehydrate a bunch of my roma tomatoes for soups and stews this fall and winter. Here is a link I found for dehydrating tomatoes. Also, don't forget about your herbs that are now at the height of their prime. Start clipping off leaves to dry somewhere. You don't even need a dehydrator for this. Just wash the leaves and place them in a container to dry somewhere out of the way. They should dry in a day or two. This way you have a stockpile before that first cold snap kills everything.  I am currently drying oregano leaves, since I ran out of my jar of oregano and don't want to pay $5 for a new jar at the grocery store. Last year I froze basil leaves and they were simply delicious on pizza or in spaghetti sauce throughout the winter.

4. My new favorite option. Turn your garden into a Giving Garden. This means you donate your excess produce to the local food bank. I came across this term as I was browsing Seattle Seedling's blog the other day. It occurred to me that I could donate some of my crazy garden produce to the Yakima Food Bank. I called them on friday and they came over an hour later and gratefully (for both of us) took away probably 10 pounds of patty pan squash, two bags stuffed with kale, and a little herb bouquet I threw in for good measure.

Giving Garden Bounty
Earl from the Yakima Food Bank sent me a message after he brought the produce back to their store saying the walk-in cooler was bare, so he was quite thankful for the food. Please consider this in your area if you have a garden-gone-wild as well.

My new thing this year is to include a recipe with each bag of produce I give away. I know that I am more apt to cook up veggies if I already have a recipe that came recommended. A few of my favorite recipes this year include Yellow Squash Casserole, Chocolate Zucchini Bread, and Kale Pesto Pasta.

What are your methods for giving away your summer garden abundance?

~ NM

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