There are so many ways to use up extra veggies from your garden.
From whipping up delicious batch after batch of tomato sauce with your extra Mortgage Lifters to tossing oversized, overabundant zucchinis into the pigpen, there are all kinds of ways you can abandon the excess.
However, if you’re tired of making canned goods (or perhaps just ran out of jars!) and don’t want to feed your extra produce to the livestock, you might be wondering if there are other solutions.
This is a predicament I have found myself in as of late. My garden was (thankfully) extremely productive this year, especially my greenhouse, where I have been able to harvest more than 100 pounds of tomatoes each week since late August.
I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth – but I will admit, that gift horse is getting a bit overwhelming! Because of this bountiful (over-bountiful, it could be argued) harvest, I’ve found myself in search of ways to use up all that extra produce without allowing it to go to waste.
Here are some tips to help you figure out what to do with your harvest this season.
10 Ways to Use Extra Garden Veggies
Are you up to your ears in ears of corn? In over your head with heads of lettuce? If so, these unique ideas for getting rid of the extra veggies from your garden will help you make good use of your bounty.
1. Preserve It
The easiest way to get rid of your extra produce without allowing any of it to go to waste is, of course, to preserve it for later use.
Although it does require a significant amount of work, preserving your garden harvest will make it easier for you to provide enough food for your family to get through the year.
Just about every type of produce can be preserved in some way. The one exception is leafy greens – although spinach, kale, and hardy greens can be frozen, canned, or dehydrated in most cases, things like lettuce don’t hold up well to long-term storage. Use those sorts of goodies ASAP.
For everything else, check out these quick guides to help you use up your bounty:
- Guide to Canning
- How to Freeze Dry Food
- Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
- Fermenting Food at Home
- Dehydrating Food
2. Donate to a Food Pantry
I don’t know of a single food pantry that would turn down a donation. Even better is food that’s fresh and organically grown! Check with your local food pantry to see if they accept donations of fresh vegetables. Chances are, they do – but they might have certain guidelines in terms of drop-off.
3. Try a Crop Swap Site
The crop swap isn’t necessarily a new concept, but it’s one to consider if you want to offload some of your extra produce. You can start an in-person crop swap with friends and neighbors or turn to the Internet.
It sounds fancy, but the premise behind a crop swap is quite simple. Say you have extra zucchini – you can swap those zucchinis for tomatoes if your harvest wasn’t that impressive.
Take things one step further by utilizing a crop swap website. By adding a listing to sites like Cropmobster and Ripe Near Me, you can get rid of your extra produce while also browsing available produce for free or sale in your neighborhood. These websites aren’t available in all areas, but if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where they are, you’ll be able to connect with new people who are interested in your product.
4. Sell It
If you already have a working farm, then selling your extra produce shouldn’t be too challenging. After all, you already have a market established.
There are several ways you can sell unwanted produce, including:
- At a farmer’s market
- By using online marketing tools like Facebook and email marketing
- At a roadside stand
Even if you don’t have an established farm brand, you can easily just put a box out by the side of the road with your extra produce. Ask for a certain amount of money for your vegetables or work on the honor system. Either way, this is a great way of getting rid of all of the produce you don’t want or need.
5. Post Ads Online
If you don’t know someone to give your garden veggies to, it can be tough to find a place to offload them.
Enter – the Internet.
Post a listing on a website like Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, or Craigslist. You may be able to sell your vegetables here, but if you can’t, you’re almost guaranteed to be able to give them away for free.
6. Cook it and Then Donate to People in Need Nearby
Many times, people don’t want to take your unwanted garden veggies off your hands simply because they don’t have the time or skills to prepare them as meals. It’s not that they don’t want or need the food – they just aren’t sure what exactly to do with it.
Yet there are still plenty of people in need. Consider whipping up a batch of eggplant parmesan for the elderly man a few houses down or the family next door that just had a baby. They’re sure to love a home-cooked meal made with homegrown vegetables.
7. Feed to Your Livestock
If you’ve fed all the human mouths in your zip code, your next best option is to feed your extra produce to your livestock. It might not feel as satisfying to watch your organic, carefully weeded, and fertilized produce being tossed into the pigpen, but at least it won’t go to waste.
8. Barter It
Another option is to barter vegetables for services and goods. Have a few eggplants but no proteins? Maybe you can swap your veggies for a dozen eggs. Perhaps you have all kinds of vegetables but are going out of town for a week and need someone to water the garden for you – perfect! Bartering is the way to go.
9. Deliver to Local Public Service Agencies
Consider delivering a box of vegetables, either raw or cooked, to a local public service agency. Some good examples include fire departments and hospitals. Firefighters, for example, need meals cooked several times a day – they are always in need of extra food!
If you want to play it safe, you can always call the firehouse ahead of time to find out what they need, but chances are, they aren’t going to care one way or the other.
10. Compost It
Last but not least, if you’ve exhausted all of your other options or if the produce has gone a little bit past its prime, you can always toss your excess into the compost bin. Again, it’s not as satisfying as being able to use it, but it’s better than allowing it to rot on your counter or in your trash bin.
Plus, you’ll get all kinds of nutritious soil for your next growing season – and that’s a win in and of itself!
Next Year, Plan Ahead!
You’ve been working hard all summer to grow a beautiful garden, but now that it’s fall and the leaves are changing colors, you find yourself with an overabundance of produce. Sure, there is always canning, but you can only do so much with a canner!
Instead, consider the ideas above to help you use up all the extra veggies from your garden. Next year, plan for the excess. Make a list of what your family eats in a year and then grow only that amount of produce (and maybe just a small amount extra, just in case). Don’t give in to the temptation to grow every single type and variety of vegetable imaginable, especially if you find that your family only eats a select few.
With a bit of careful planning in the future and the ideas listed above, you should be able to offload all of your produce in no time!