OK. Its October. It's still hitting seventy degrees up here in Vermont and the garden, though it doesn't look so pretty, is still producing. Today is the first day that we have not had a table full of tomatoes and a fridge full of cucumbers. This is the time of year when we are tempted to throw our hands in the air, open the garden gate, and feed it to the critters.
Frankly, we're exhausted.
But there is hope, and we're trying not to give up yet. Here are 5 easy ways to use or preserve the last of your produce so it doesn't go to waste. I've provided links so you don't have to search for them. I know how tired you are!
Freezing: when you have canned all that you can possibly can, see if you have room in your freezer for some really easy preserving. You can throw a bag of cherry tomatoes in there and then cook them up in the winter. You can make an easy tomato soup and freeze it in quart containers. You can chop cucumbers into chunks and freeze them for smoothies. You can even freeze herbs; sage does really well in the freezer, for example.
Pickling: if you have a late harvest of green beans or a bunch of happy cucumbers, pickling is always an option. You can do large quantities at once and there are lots of ways to do it. Sure, you can use a traditional canning recipe, but you can also go for refrigerator pickles to make like a little easier, especially if you're going to eat them soon. Here's a great resource on how to pickle almost any vegetable from kitchn.
Drying: if you have large quantities of herbs like basil, parsley, or thyme consider drying them for future use. Dried mint is also great for winter tea. If you have a dehydrator, you can easily use that for this task. But don't despair if you don't have fancy equipment; I have had great luck dehydrating basil by turning the oven on to a low temp and then turning it off and loading the basil in for a number of hours. Here are some easy low tech options for drying basil.
You could also dry tomatoes in the dehydrator or make sun-dried tomatoes in the oven.
Juicing: if you have a juicer or just a nice quality blender, consider turning your produce into some yummy healthy juices. We like combining cucumbers, kale, and apples (all available at this time of year) for a refreshing morning green juice. The apples add sweetness so that everyone in the family can enjoy it! Consider blanching your kale to make it a little bit softer. Add a little parsley to make it taste even more fresh. Here's a simple cucumber-apple-kale smoothie recipe from Epicurious.
Donating/Gleaning: and, if you're really too tired to preserve or you want your bounty to go to a good purpose consider checking with your local food shelf to see if they will take produce. Better yet, search for a local gleaning program that might send a group of volunteers out to pick the last of your produce to go to those who need it. Here is some more information about gleaning from the Vermont Food Bank.