New and experienced gardeners often make the same mistake — we plant too many zucchinis, tomatoes, or beans, and have excess harvest coming out of our ears. Maybe we planted everything at the same time (a common newbie error) leading to the harvest coming in all at once, or perhaps we got too excited and planted too many new varieties. The end result is still the same — way too much harvest than one person or one family can possibly eat.
So, what to do with all the excess harvest? Here are four ideas, ranging from solutions you have heard of but not yet tried, to those that are lesser-known options.
1. Compost: This is an easy one, right? What’s better than using parts of this year’s harvest to enrich the soil for next year’s garden? Compost veggies, fruits, and herbs that are over-ripe, spoiled, moldy, or have been nibbled on too much by critters. Don’t compost edibles that have a disease that can be carried through the compost to infect the next garden season — instead, dispose of them in a bag and place in the trash can.
2. Freeze Dry: If you want to stockpile some harvest, purchase a dryer that freezes food to -50 degrees, then removes the moisture and seals it in oxygen-proof packaging. Tomatoes, corn, beans, peas, squashes, and cucumbers are great candidates for freeze-drying.
3. Can & Freeze: Canning your harvest is a great way to store it so that no bacteria growth is possible. Any fruits and veggies that you see canned on the grocery store shelf are good candidates for this. Freezing your harvest is another great option, using freezer bags that are labeled with contents and date. Consume the oldest frozen food first to avoid waste from freezer burn, which can happen within 3 months even with proper preparation.
4. Share & Donate: Aside from sharing extra zucchini and tomatoes with family, friends, and neighbors, consider donating the excess harvest to a local food bank or soup kitchen. Call ahead to make sure the ones in your area accept perishable food, and only donate food that you would feel comfortable eating yourself (no moldy fruit, please!).