Plenty of tender, loving care went into those vegetable seedlings planted this spring. Weeks of watering, weeding, pruning and feeding have likely resulted in a harvest so bountiful, it is beginning to overwhelm the kitchen.
What an exciting sight to have watched that seedling grow with sunshine, water and good soil in the backyard garden or patio container garden to produce such a plethora of fresh vegetables. By harvest time, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and cucumbers weigh down the vines and stems of the formerly tiny seedlings, and many gardeners are running out of storage space and recipe ideas for all the incredible vegetables picked at the height of freshness.
So what can be done with the garden leftovers? Donating and gifting are two great ways to help friends and the community with fresh produce. Miracle-Gro and America’s Test Kitchen teamed up to provide recipes that are perfect for parties, providing a delicious meal for a shut-in and sharing with co-workers.
Tomatoes from the garden can be canned and easily transformed into chili, spaghetti or pizza sauce even into the winter months. From salsa and pico de gallo, to zucchini bread and cucumber salad, these popular foods will have family and friends enthusiastically eating garden vegetables all summer long. Expand the menu options by growing some different vegetables or herbs each year, and investigate new recipes that may become family favorites.
Create gift baskets for friends and neighbors with excess fresh produce. Whether celebrating the summer holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or for no reason at all, summer crops can inspire a variety of gifts. Ask your friends for their favorite recipes featuring delicious vegetables and herbs. Then, print out the best recipes on colorful cardstock and bundle up the ingredients, including fresh produce from the garden, giving the whole package as a gift. Who wouldn’t be overjoyed to receive a fabulous gourmet meal in the making?
Donate any extra harvest to a local food shelter where it will benefit members of the community. Contact local food pantries prior to harvesting the vegetables to find out what restrictions they might have on garden vegetables. If the local food pantry does not accept fresh produce, contact area churches to see if any have a food donation program established.
While the first harvest is exciting, do not forget to continue nurturing remaining plants in the garden. Some plants will produce vegetables until the weather gets considerably cooler, allowing for the enjoyment of fresh produce well into the fall. Ensure that plants have enough water, and continue pulling weeds competing with vegetable plants for water and nutrients.