After running around like a lunatic this spring trying to get my two huge vegetable plots weeded, dug up and planted, my sister said something like “Well, at least you’ll be able to relax in the fall”.

What the farg, hell, what, snapshow, say that again now?

Be able to relax?  Pftt.  I looked down at the ground and gave my head a subtle shake, a faint smile curling on my lips.  You’re so stupid, sister.  Give your head a shake.  For anyone who has a vegetable garden, spring planting is much like spring training.  It’s just a little something to get you ready for the World Series for vegetable gardeners … Canning season.

It goes a little something like this:

Wake up.


Head to garden to pick 14 million tomatoes and jalapeño peppers which have somehow grown overnight.

Vow to never plant more than 2 tomato plants again.

Fall asleep in the middle of your compost pile.

Wake up with the feeling you need to blow nose then realize it’s just a worm is making its way towards your nostril.  So in fact, you probably should blow your nose.

Pick some more vegetables.

Head home, place vegetables in the sink.


Wash, chop, peel, dice, slice, boil, can, freeze, cook, give away, throw away, eat, pack, water bath and repeat.

Every. Single. Day.

So far this year I’ve frozen whole tomatoes, made roasted tomato sauce, assembled one trillion jalapeño poppers, frozen whole hot peppers, rhubarbs, raspberries and more.  Much of which I’ll forget about until April when I open my freezer and think omg I better eat all of this before spring training.

I love doing it all, but sometimes you run out of ideas.  Sometimes you need someone to say Hey!  You can do this with your 14 million tomatoes!  At which point you tell them, you don’t think tomatoes are a very good medium to work with for abstract art sculptures, on account of they attract fruit flies. And rot.  And liquify.

Here are the 10 ways I use up those things in the garden that produce so PROLIFICALLY.  The John Grishams of the vegetable garden; tomatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers, beets and more.


TOMATOES & HOT PEPPERS. Chili Sauce!  Chili sauce will get rid of a whole BUNCH of garden stuff all at once.  Tomatoes, hot peppers, and red peppers are some of the main ingredients i this DELICIOUS sauce.  You can use it on chicken and pork but my preferred method of delivery is on potato pancakes.


SQUASH.  Squash and pumpkins last a long time in the cupboard but some of the thinner skinned ones like Delicata and Acorn squash don’t have quite as good a shelf life as thicker skinned squash like Buttercup or Kabocha squash.  If you spend the time now to whip up a batch of squash (pumpkin) soup you can ladle it into freezer bags, lay them flat to save space and have a whole whack of squash/pumpkin soup ready to grab on a cold winter’s night.



JALAPEÑO PEPPERS. For real, no joke, I cannot pick another Jalapeño pepper.  For real, no joke, I cannot make another Jalapeño popper.  I’ve been making these things all summer long and now I’m DONE.  Just make them up (do not cook) and stick them in a freezer bag.  Whenever you want a few this winter, just pull them out and stick them in the oven.  In January I’m always incredibly happy I went to the trouble of doing this.

You can also throw hot peppers whole into a baggie and stick them in the freezer for use in soups, stews and chili later in the winter.  I’ve also pickled jalapeño peppers.  I did it a few years ago.  I’m still working on getting through those 6 jars.  I really need to commit to eating more nachos.


I usually do two plantings of beets.  Not because I have such great forethought that I plan it out that way, it just happens that I’m so excited to plant stuff in the spring that I get my beets in right away and then they’re ready for picking earlier than they’re ready for storing.  Once you pick beets, they start to soften fairly quickly unless you can keep them in a damp, cool environment.  Like I do in my mudroom all winter.  So by the end of July I have a crop of beets ready to pick and no way to store them.  So I pick them and make pickled beets with the first crop and immediately plant more beets to harvest later in the fall. These are the ones I store for the winter in my cool mudroom.

 CARROTS.  Ditto for my carrots.  The first crop gets made into a big batch of Szechwan Carrot Soup which MAY be my favourite homemade soup of all time.  Unless it’s Pumpkin Soup. Which it might be.

Second crop gets stored for the winter.

Wondering how I store my root vegetables all winter long and have them survive?  Like this in sand.


Oy vey.  Everybody loves a kosher dill.  If I don’t have enough sometimes I even go to the market and BUY pickling cucumbers so I can make these fermented pickles in the fall.  So easy, so good PLUS you feel exactly like Laura Ingalls doing it.  Which is always a good way to feel. Unless Laura got tuberculosis. Did she get tuberculosis?  ‘Cause if she did that’s not a good way to feel.  Let’s move forward assuming Laura did not have tuberculosis.


TOMATOES.  O.K. the queen of the vegetable crops.  The tomato.  There are 3 ways I preserve these suckers.  Freeze them whole in a baggie so I can use them in place of  canned whole or diced tomatoes when a recipe calls for them throughout the winter.

I also roast them and freeze them for warm, smoky, tomato sauce in the winter. It makes a delicious quick, easy meal.  Just add some penne pasta, italian sausage and a big salad.


… and the final way I use up my tomatoes is I press and can them.  I used to use a hand crank press but I’ve graduated to an electric one because sometimes it’s nice to NOT feel like Laura Ingalls.


Hopefully that’s given you a few ideas as to what you can do with your excess garden stuff.  And here’s a SUPER handy tip.  You can do all of these things even if you DON’T have a garden.  In the fall things like bushels of tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, onions and peppers are all available for next to nothing because even the real farmers of the world are looking for ways to get rid of their massive tomato crops. So they sell them by the bushel for the low, low price of barely anything.

Chances are I’ll only be doing  3 of these things this weekend. Because you know, it’s still just the playoffs.  The World Series of harvesting will start in a week or two.

You’ll know it’s here, when on a still, cool evening, you think you hear the sound of a wild animal in pain.  But that’s not what it is.  It’s the collective sobbing of vegetable gardeners all across North America.

Have a good weekend!



  1. TucsonPatty says:

    Oy, I really do not envy you. Except for all the goodies you’ll have later…you’re that insect that worked all summer so he could have food all winter, not the lazy slug (me) that has to buy all winter to eat! Bon Appetít!

  2. Ryn says:

    I’ll definitely going to be trying some of these next year! I would’ve been able to try these this year, but the rabbits ate over half my (small) garden.

  3. Paula says:

    A couple of other good uses for tomatoes: Salsa, Black Bean Salsa, Bruschetta in a Jar, and Tomato Pie which is absolutely delicious, albeit not exactly low calorie. I just finished my last batch of dill pickles tonight, yay!

  4. And here I am on the other side of the planet just getting into spring planting… while still harvesting lettuce and other stuff from the garden. First potatoes coming soon. I love not having snow. Might give that carrot soup a try, though. And what about drying things?

  5. Gayle'' says:

    Some of the mad-dash-how-do-I-get-rid-of-all-this-produce-mania: One year, I made green tomato “mincemeat”, and at Thanksgiving no one was the wiser. Made zucchini sweet relish, again no one was the wiser. But I never got so overwhelmed that I snuck around in the dark anonymously gifting that which I could not bear to process. Oh, all this while working full time, raising two boys (3 with hubby), and hubby working reverse swing shifts at the Sheriff’s Dept. Sweet man that he is, he was right there beside me tightening lids and timing the water bath for fruits, veggies, and jams/jellies because he also wanted the bounty preserved on the shelves as well. He’s a keeper, and no I won’t share! (Women have actually asked! )

  6. allyn says:

    SORRY can.t open your links. I know I.m missing something simple. Can you help.

  7. allyn says:

    oops. never mind. found it. love you.

  8. Chris White says:

    My aunt and I discovered an abandoned cherry tree this summer. We picked enough cherries to sink a boat. Then we went back and gathered more because we could not leave them. My cupboards are now full of cherry jelly, cherry chutney and brandied cherries. Freezer is full of cherry pies. And many, many bags of frozen cherries.
    Did I mention I am the only person in the house that likes cherries?

  9. Ann says:

    Naturally fermenting veggies is now something I am addicted to. I did not go look at your pickle recipe but I am assuming they are naturally fermented? But so far I have done naturally fermented carrots, beets, green beans and garlic, sauerkraut. When you naturally ferment you make a food that is high is pre and probiotics and also vitamin K2. K2 is not well known by the public. It is not the blood clotting vitamin like K1 is. But instead regulates all calcium processing. And honey, almost everything in your body runs due to calcium channeling. Muscles move, hearts beat, bones grow, ect. They are now finding that many who have cancer and have it come back are very low in K2. not that they understand the connections yet, but they do suppose that somehow the lack of good K2 plays into cancer being able to grow.

    • ~JackieVB says:

      Thanks for sharing that information Ann. I’ve been taking K2 and D3 along with Magnesium as I learned that K2 regulates calcium processing but I didn’t know about the role that calcium plays in the major systems in your body.
      I too love natural fermentation for veggies and have seen improvements in my health because of it. Plus it helps that I like the taste – now I just wish I had as many veggies as Karen!

    • Karen says:

      Yup the pickles are fermented. Just chuck them in a crock of water, salt and dill. ~ karen!

  10. Katie C. says:

    I made a huge pot of roasted tomato and basil soup this weekend and froze it in single servings because all of a sudden I had 5 lbs of tomatoes and didn’t know what to do with them!

    • Katie C. says:

      However, I have 3 tomato plants that have about 100 green tomatoes on them and I didn’t know what I’d do with them when/if they turned red! Now I have some ideas.

      • Karen says:

        If you want to help your tomatoes along Katie C. pinch off the top of your tomato plant and get rid of the smaller tomatoes that aren’t going to come to anything. That’ll give the plant a chance to ripen and grow the tomatoes that do have a fighting chance. ~ karen!

  11. Cred says:

    Let the games begin!

  12. Cred says:

    I’ll be doing some preserving this year but limited. Some jalapeño jelly from my garden but I have to buy pickling cucumbers for relish and dills- both fermented and my mom’s recipe. I did some small batch canning for some tomatoes but when the weather got cool my tomatoes slowed down.
    Later, I’ll baked some pumpkin and freeze it in 1/2 cup portions for soup or pies. I also grate zucchini and freeze it in mounds for baking later.
    Next year I intend to plan my garden for canning- I’ve never grown pickling cucumbers and I need to do a yield calculation so I plant enough paste tomatoes to can enough for the year.
    Maybe I need to do some of uncle shifty’s antojitos- can you freeze these before baking? Seems like they should be fine.
    And I should do a couple jars of pickled jalapeños- I have an awesome jalapeño dip recipe that used pickled and fresh. Shit! I gotta stop- we’re going into extra innings
    PS- Have you tried cooking the poppers in the oven? We got rid of our dilapidated gas grill and have been cooking on the fire or the charcoal BBQ- I don’t expect we’ll be lighting the charcoal grill during the winter months.

    • Karen says:

      Yup. I cook them in the oven all the time. (not allll the time, but sometimes) I just stick them in at a low temp (275-300) and keep checking on them. ~ karen!

  13. Mindy says:

    You should make pepper jelly. Jalapenos and bell peppers. It’ll change your life.

  14. Karin says:

    I’m addicted to your roasted tomato recipe! It is a game changer. Often it doesn’t make it to the freezer unfortunately. We just scoop some up and plop it on some crusty bread. Yummmmm.
    Now, any ideas on zucchini? Anyone? Ever tried pickling it?

  15. Ev Wilcox says:

    Very nice post, Karen. The wonders/horrors of fall are behind for me, but I remember them well! And irony of ironies-now I have updated equipment that would have helped so much back then! Sigh…but my neighbor gave me a lot of zucchinis the other day, so I did do them up and freeze them. Hurray for my food processor! Am looking at recipes for a savory zucc bread and a double chocolate loaf that the picky males here might like. I recently bought an implement that goes on my Kitchen Aid-one of the things it does is grind meat, which I have long wanted to do. Any suggestions?

  16. nanabobana says:

    ok, ok, ok, I picked my last tomatoes yesterday and just stewed them and froze them for soup later and I’m done. 17 pints of bread and butter pickles (FINALLY learned to pick the cukes when they are small after 6 years of laziness!) and 16 pints of spaghetti sauce, 12 of pizza sauce, and 8 of stewed and I am done! Already decided I am not planting tomatoes or cukes next year, I am going to concentrate on melons and squash planted in straw bales since I lost all of those to bugs and inattention this year. Thanks for the posts on making row and plot covers, def going to refer back to those next spring!!

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      VERY impressive! What’s the difference between your spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce?

      • nanabobana says:

        Spaghetti sauce has more sugar in it. I put a little more oregano and basil in pizza sauce, too, but otherwise they’re pretty much the same. The Hub is a huge fan of anything pasta and tomatoes, so if we run out of spaghetti sauce, I can always add more sugar to the pizza sauce and sub it in. 🙂

  17. Jan in Waterdown says:

    So, in between all that canning this weekend, you gonna try to ram in a Christie trip?

    • Ronda says:

      ooooo! Christie! I’m jealous! Would so love to go, but am in the middle of chemo treatment, so have to pass this time around. But, May for sure!

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        Weather is looking kinda dodgey… tres hot ‘n’ humid and 80% chance of thunderstorms…
        Sorry you’re having to go through chemo and I hope all turns out well for you. Then next spring a little antiquing will be even better!

      • Karen says:

        So sorry you’re having to go through chemo Ronda but at the same time … how lucky we are to have chemo available. Kick cancer’s sorry ass. ~ karen!

  18. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    YES!..you must go to Christie’s so we can see all the stuff…No excuses…get your tiny hiney ready..grab Betty and get going…

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Ohhhhh if I go it’ll be only for relaxing and browsing. 🙂 I don’t shoot the fall show when I go so I can enjoy it a bit more. It’s a bit of a pain to lug around the big camera. But I’ll Facebook and Instagram! ~ karen

      • Nancy Blue Moon says:

        Hey..no problem..just make Betty lug the camera around..yeah..she could even take the shots..lol..I’m kidding…sorta..I’ll check out your Facebook and Instagram..

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        Didn’t go cuz it’s a really crappy day…. drizzle and 89% humidity. $hit. Guess that makes me a wussie ?

  19. UrbanFarmKid Marti says:

    Yeah… I ate a half a bag of cherry tomatoes at work this morning. It was solid.
    I hate squirrels.

  20. Amy in KC says:

    My dad grows a lot of jalepenos every year so he can make “jalepeno dust.” He dehydrates the jalepenos in his dehydrator, then grinds the dried peppers up in an old coffee grinder he got and uses ONLY specifically for this purpose. The result is a bunch of “dust” that you can use as a spice to doctor recipes up a bit, if you like spicy stuff. And jalepenos aren’t really that spicy, so a jar of the dust could be a good Christmas gift for pretty much anyone who cooks. He does the same with habaneros, but the jalepeno dust is more versatile, IMO.

    It’s the same thing if you buy “jalepeno flakes” (like red pepper flakes) at a spice store, but my dad grinds them up finer.

    If you do try this yourself, try to do it outside (my dad has a workshop) and wear a face mask, gloves and maybe even safety goggles! All that capsaicin in the air can burn a bit.

  21. Barbie says:

    I love your posts…especially at this time of year. While I’m harvesting everything in my garden. This year we got ours in kind of late and now we are dealing with the frost. I panicked this morning as we got our first frost last night and I thought I had lost all my tomatoes before I could pick them as I do even when they are green so I can “can” them. I hardly have enough this year and you have an abundance I hear. I’m jealous. I never seem to have enough although I plant about 16 plants each year. ….I will say this though… I used “kinda” your method of clipping off the bottom branches and it worked like a charm with nice big tomatoes …bigger than ever before. Thanks Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Frost? You have frost?? We’re still under heat warnings. People are turning into zombies from the insane heat that has been going on for months and months! Had I know it was going to be like this I would have tried growing a palm tree this spring. ~ karen!

  22. Heather (mtl) says:

    I lost all my produce I already picked in a fire last week but have a couple things to munch on in the garden still. It’s just far away, now, as I’ve been relocated.
    Luckily, a few fat yellow Toms grew and are going to be made into a sauce with shrimp tonight (soo much nicer than red – a must try) along with some guero peppers. Yum!
    I marathoned all spring and summer only to lose them all – bummer – but I will buy some toms to roast as that is the best smell when the air gets cool.
    Will be making your poppers tomorrow. They look and sound yummy! (thanks for the honey tip)

    • Karen says:

      Heather I got your message! How awful. Do you know if you’ll be able to go home yet or are they assessing the state of your fire burned building still? ~ karen!

  23. Cindy says:

    Bought some jalapeño peppers this morning to try your recipe for freezer. How long and what temperature to cook when they are from freezer ? ?
    No garden my own anymore but can’t stop canning this time of year. Thanks for all your great ideas !

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy! I usually put them in the oven quite low, 275 or 300 and just cook the until they’re done. I dont’ really pay attention to the time. At least an hour. ~ karen!

  24. Laurie says:

    Hi Karen, I really want to try the pickles, but I don’t have a crock. Do you think a stainless stock pot would work?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laurie! I wouldn’t use stainless for fermenting but food grade plastic is perfect. So a 5 gallon plastic bucket for instance. ~ karen!

  25. m'liss says:

    You are a busy lady!
    No veg garden here but I love canning & freezing. I only do a few things that are easy & that we love the most; strawberry & apricot jam (also great for gifts), freeze corn (for soups), and tomato jam (the easiest way to preserve tomatoes (no peeling or seeding, done in under an hour), bread & butter pickles.
    Can’t beat the taste of summer in January.
    I know you don’t need any more ideas, but I canned peppadew peppers a couple of times & they were great.

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