The Abundant Harvest: Preserve and Share

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
The Abundant Harvest: Preserve and Share

At summer’s end, when the fruit and vegetable harvest is more than plenty, what can you do with it all?

Your waistband won’t allow you to eat fried okra every night, and I’m guessing about now, you’re tired of zucchini bread. Even your neighbors are exhausted by the zucchini onslaught. Don’t ask me why, but I know.

You might even be tempted to throw the remaining excess in the compost bin and hide it with debris, but perish the thought. Before letting any good food go to waste, consider the following.

Can it be pickled? Cucumbers aren’t the only vegetables you can preserve, and unlike grandma, our methods don’t have to be long and drawn out anymore. Invest in a good, recipe book devoted to putting up small batches of the harvest. Within, you’ll find delicious pickling recipes for not only cucumbers, but onions, watermelon rinds--they are delicious, I promise--okra, tomatoes, green beans and so much more.

Can the produce be canned or frozen? Over the years, I’ve done a lot of canning, and it’s just a personal preference, but I like freezing best. For example, I make the tomato sauce below, which I love taking out of the freezer in the dead of winter. When I spoon it over pasta, it instantly evokes summer for me.

Vegetable Bounty

Summer in the Garden Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans and Other Good Things, by Lois M. Landau and Laura G. Myers

  • Two large onions, chopped
  • Two cloves garlic, chopped
  • Three Tablespoons high-quality olive oil (Choose the greenest you can find.)
  • Fifteen to Twenty tomatoes of any sizes, dipped into hot water to peel, then seeded and chopped into chunks
  • Two cups of good, red wine
  • Twelve ounces tomato paste
  • Two teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Two tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • Two tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • One tablespoon fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems and chopped
  • Two tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • One bay leaf

Sauté onions, garlic and red pepper in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for one hour. Remove bay leaf. Let sauce cool and place it in serving-size, freezer bags. Remove as much air from bags as possible before closing. Freeze flat and then stack bags vertically to save space.

Don’t forget to write the name and date of your sauce on the outside of the bag. Mid-winter, you won’t remember the strange, red contents within.

Can I make jams, fruit butters or pie filling from fall fruits like pears, persimmons, apples or quince? How about herb vinegars? All of these homemade items make wonderful gifts and are usually inexpensive to make.

Finally, would your local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or other agencies designed to assist the poor want any of your surplus? Maybe you didn’t plan to Plant a Row for the Hungry_, but you can still share. Call local food banks and shelters in your area and see if they can use home-grown vegetables and fruit. In my state, the Urban Harvest program for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma encourages gardeners to become involved in many ways including sharing extra food. You can also volunteer at Urban Harvest on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 a.m. to Noon.

Just knowing you’re helping someone else who may not normally get much fresh produce in his/her diet has got to make you feel good. Being rewarded with such a generous harvest means plenty to share.