Gardening is a hobby with many unique joys. There’s the excitement of learning all the basics, the anticipation of planting your first seeds, the starry-eyed glee of seeing the first green leaves emerging from the soil, and the triumphant satisfaction of cooking a meal with produce that you yourself grew at home.
Where do you go from there? You’ve got a whole season’s worth of crops to look forward to harvesting, but how many salads can one person eat?
Here are some fun ideas for different things you can do with your homegrown bounty.
Make Your Own Jellies & Jams
The one major drawback to having a produce garden is that, unless you live in an area with a relatively consistent climate, your growing season is limited. A limited growing season means a limited harvest, which means you can only enjoy your homegrown produce for a small amount of time each year.
Or can you? One great way to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor all year long is to preserve them as delicious dips, toppings, and spreads. The natural sugars, acids, and pectin in both lends themselves to preservation in the form of jellies and . This is done by mashing, cooking, and finally letting the produce set so that the pectin inside can turn gelatinous.
While sweet, predominantly fruit-based jellies and jams are most common, more savory ingredients like tomatoes and zucchini can also be used. You can even marry sweet and savory together by making a cranberry pepper jam or a garlic rosemary apple jelly. Your limit is your imagination.
Discover the Joy of Pickling
Maybe you like the idea of turning fresh produce into long-lasting and well-preserved goodies to enjoy at a later date, but you’re not big on jellies or jams. If that’s the case, pickling might be an attractive alternative.
One of the oldest and most reliable forms of food preservation in human history, pickling involves fully sealing produced in a jar or other container filled to the brim with a water-salt-vinegar mixture. This prevents bacteria from spoiling the food, while also imparting strong flavors to that food.
Pickled foods can be further enhanced by adding other ingredients to the mix, such as dill, mustard, sugar, and more. Cucumbers are one of the most popular pickled items, but they’re far from the only one. You can pickle all kinds of veggies, including green beans, broccoli, tomatillos, carrots, beets, peppers, and onions. Feel free to experiment with different recipes.
Mix Up Nutritious Smoothies
For the average adult, healthcare experts recommend roughly 7-13 servings of fruits and veggies every single day. That’s a lot, and it makes it difficult for even the healthiest of eaters to get all the vitamins and nutrients they need.
The thing is, many of us overlook a major avenue for upping our produce intake. When we think of fruits and veggies, we often think in terms of eating them. Why not try drinking them instead? Blending produce into smoothies, as well as juicing, can complement any balanced meal, while also helping you squeeze in extra nutrition between meals.
and juices are also good options for those who might not care for the taste of certain veggies. The sweet taste of oranges, strawberries, and pomegranates is usually strong enough to mask the taste of tomatoes, spinach, carrots, and cabbage. Proof positive that healthy eating isn’t always yucky.