Beginning vegetable gardeners might pick and choose veggies at harvest time. Do you toss the runts or harvest too early? Do you harvest too late? What do you do with that substandard produce? What if you have too much for your family? Don't waste your harvest. Here's how to make the most out of everything you pick from your backyard garden.
Keep a close eye on ripening fruit and veggies.
You just checked on your melons a couple days ago. Why are they overripe today? Don't worry. It happens to the best of us. Once late summer arrives, fruits and veggies ripen fast. The best strategy is to check them daily. It only takes a few minutes to walk the garden rows. Don't waste your harvest by neglecting this task.
Note: Check for pests, disease and watering needs on your daily garden stroll.
Tiny veggies can still be tasty.
What if your first try at gardening produced some puny specimens? You can still eat them. Tiny cherry tomatoes are great for munching on. Just put a bowl on the table. Sometimes they're a bit tart. They still make a great low calorie snack. Most stunted fruits and veggies are just as good as the full size version. You just have to use more of them.
Note: Got tons of tiny produce? Use it for salads. You won't have to work as hard cutting it up.
Overripe produce can be useful too.
Your peppers shriveled up and dried while you weren't looking. That's not a problem. Go ahead and pick them off. If there's time left in the growing season, your plants will produce more. Don't waste that first harvest, though. Cut them open and save the seeds for next year. It's one less packet you'll have to buy.
Note: As long as your overripe peppers aren't spoiled, use the dried pods to flavor soups and sauces.
Freeze, can or prepare produce for storage immediately.
Did you plant enough produce to last the winter? If so, freeze or can your vegetables and fruits right away. Don't delay on root cellar produce or drying herbs either. The sooner you store, can or freeze your produce, the tastier it will be. That goes for making jams, jellies and sauces too. Buy any supplies you'll need for preserving your food well before the harvest, so you'll be ready.
Note: If you've never prepared food for storage, read up on the process while your produce is ripening. When it's ripe, you'll be ready.
Share your bountiful harvest.
Beginning gardeners might not think to grow a row for the hungry. Still, they might plant more than they need out of sheer enthusiasm. If this happens to you, remember to donate the extras to a local food bank or share with less fortunate neighbors. It would be a shame to let your harvest go to waste with so many hungry people in the world.
Note: Got something you simply can't use or give away? Your true garden waste can be put to use in the compost pile. Just be careful. Not everything can be put in the compost pile.
This article was previously published on a now closed Yahoo property.