We should all be so lucky as to have an over-abundance of produce coming from our gardens, and frankly, those who do are people whom I envy. Many of us crop cultivators struggle at the beginning, working to yield a handful of tomatoes or cucumbers, but eventually, all that effort does translate into a bounty. Sometimes, it’s just too much for one person, even one family, to eat at one time. But, that’s far from being a problem.
For a second, let’s be confident. Let’s be hopeful. Let’s presume that our gardens this year will provide more food than we ever imagined, a harvest so plentiful that the thought of another freshly plucked sweet pepper just sours our faces. What a life!, folks will say, but we are left scratching our heads as to what will we do with all these vegetables. Let us scratch no further. Here’s what to do with that ridiculous abundance.
Dehydration is not just for jerky and fruit. Lots of vegetables take really well to being dehydrated, and they can be stored this way for months, long enough for a gardener to regain the taste for sweet potatoes or tomatoes. What’s more, is that dehydrating completely changes the texture and intensifies the flavor of stuff. Kale and sweet potatoes become chips. Tomatoes become compact bursts of deliciousness. Fresh herbs make it to the pantry for the leaner months. Seasoning vegetables — onions, celery, carrots, garlic — can be dried and ground into seasoning powders. The dehydrator is a great way to preserve the abundance for the months to come.
Another natural method of food preservation is fermentation, and it comes with great probiotic benefits that’ll keep our guts healthy. Fermentation is a primo way to deal with an abundance of apples (hard apple cider and homemade apple cider vinegar). It’s a great use for cabbages and carrots and onions and cucumbers and radishes and anything else we might throw into a sauerkraut recipe. Fermenting is very easy, has benefits beyond just preserving the harvest, and makes the kitchen and/or pantry look amazing, with potions bubbling everywhere.
Some folks make canned pickles — putting food into an acidic solution, like vinegar — for longevity, but a good pickle can be pretty hard to resist for long. Instead, it can be done by soaking veggies in vinegar, infused with some fresh herbs from the garden, for a few days in the fridge. While many of us picture gherkins when we think of pickles, lots of things take well to vinegar. Greens beans, beets, okra, tomatoes, cauliflower, onions and even watermelon rinds are all common elements for tasty pickling. Pickles are great additions to stews, salads, and sandwiches.