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:
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.
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!