5 Things to Do with Leftover Garden Produce

What do you do with all your garden vegetables that you are not able to eat right away? All your hard work through the spring and summer has paid off to bring you a bountiful crop ... so don’t let it go to waste. There are a lot of things you can do with your extra garden vegetables to make sure they are put to good use. Here are some ideas of what to do with your extra crops.

child-559407_1920Donate to Local Food Pantry
Whatever the reason may be, there are a lot of hungry people here in our own country that can be helped. According to AmpleHarvest.org, as Americans “we throw away a pound of food per person per day” and “well over 100 billion pounds of food per year.” That’s insane, I can’t even comprehend the amount of food that is wasted every day. Additionally, it is estimated that there is more than 40 million pounds of produce thrown out of backyard gardens annually.

There is no reason that your extra produce should add to those enormous numbers. You can help to eliminate waste and feed the hungry right in your local area. Visit Ample Harvest to find a local food pantry you can donate your extra produce to. Ample Harvest was created so that gardeners could find local food pantries to donate extra crops to instead of letting them rot in the garden or get thrown away.

Make into Food Storage
There are several ways to turn your crops into long term food storage to be enjoyed at a later time.

Pickle Your Harvest. Pickling your food is a great way to preserve nutrients while also preserving the shelf life of your crops. For more information on pickling, read our previous blog post.

Dehydrating. Dehydrated food makes for a delicious and nutritious snack that will keep for extended periods of time. Fruit is my favorite dehydrated food, but you can also dehydrate vegetables and meat. Check out how you can make your own dehydrator.

Cook and Freeze. Growing up, my mother often made large amounts of food for dinner with the intent of freezing the leftovers. You can freeze just about any food to preserve the shelf life but soups always seem to keep best when frozen; the trick is finding a recipe that incorporates all those extra vegetables that your garden is producing, especially squash and zucchini--they are kinda like the rabbits of the vegetable world. Here are a couple great recipes that could help you out.

Beef & Garden Vegetable Soup
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into bite-size pieces
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 bay leaves
• 3 carrots, diced
• 4 small red potatoes, diced
• 2 quarts beef stock
• 1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 3 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from cob
• 1/2 cup frozen petite peas
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 1/2 head cabbage, chopped
• 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
• 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
• salt and ground black pepper to taste
• 1/3 cup uncooked orzo pastaDirections:
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat; cook the beef in the hot oil until completely browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the onion and bay leaves, reduce heat to medium, cook until the onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir the carrots, potatoes, and beef stock into the mixture; bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are just barely tender, about 5 minutes.Stir the green beans, corn, peas, zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes, Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, salt, and pepper into the beef mixture. Cover the stock pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer the soup until the beef is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 45 to 50 minutes.Stir the orzo pasta into the soup; replace the cover to the stock pot and continue cooking until the pasta is tender, about 5 minutes more.


Moist Zucchini Bread

• 1 cup oil
• 3 eggs
• 2 cups shredded zucchini
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 3 tsp. cinnamon
• 2 cups sugar
• 3 tsp. vanilla
• 3 cups flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. baking powderDirections:
Combine oil, sugar, and eggs. Beat well. Blend in vanilla and zucchini. Add dry ingredients and blend well. Add nuts. Pour into 2 loaf pans, well-greased and lightly floured. Bake at 350° for about an hour. Let stand in pans 10 minutes, then turn out on racks to cool.

Create a Piece of Art
You may not be a Michelangelo yet, but if that is your dream, or if you want an enjoyable pastime, try sculpting some of your extra produce. Let the right side of your brain run wild. Here are some impressive examples to get you started.

Make into Compost
If your produce is already on the verge of spoilage, you may want to consider turning it into compost to enrich your soil for better future growth. Turning your old vegetables and plants into compost is a great way to put nutrients back into your soil. Studies have shown that compost increases the ability of many vegetables to fight off common diseases while improving nutrition and flavor.

The materials you put into your compost pile has a big impact on how well the composting process works. The following is how to whip up your nutrient rich compost pile:

• Carbon for Energy--materials high in carbon tend to be brown in color and dry. Dead flowers, leaves, hay, straw, peanut shells, or shredded paper are all items high in carbon.
• Nitrogen to Reproduce Organisms--tend to be green and wet. Fruits, vegetables, and grass clipping all tend to be high in nitrogen.
• Oxygen for Oxidizing the Carbon
• Water to Create a Moist Environment

Create your base layer by spreading out carbon materials.

Spread nitrogen materials on top of your carbon material base.

Continue alternating carbon and nitrogen materials with about two or three times as much carbon materials as nitrogen. The ideal compost pile will be 3’ x 3’ x 3’; smaller piles do work but are less efficient.

Add water to moisten your pile but do not soak it.

You can stir occasionally using a pitchfork to make sure your ingredients are working together.

Let mother nature run her course and before you know it you will have your nutrient rich “black gold.”

Note: It is also a good idea to place small sticks throughout as you build the pile to hold it together and to better allow oxygen to penetrate to the center. You may also want to place a tarp over your pile to protect it from soaking rains.

It is a good sign to see steam rise and earth worms squirm from the pile as you stir your compost; this means your pile is decomposing.

Play a Game
If you really can’t think of anything else to do with your extra produce, or if you get a sudden urge to destroy some crops, consider one of these games to satisfy you needs. Your kids will most certainly love to play as well.

Squash Bowling
Select 10 squash to be destroyed.
Tape or paint your squash to represent bowling pins.
Set up the pins.
Select a nice round pumpkin and standing about 15 feet away give it a whirl.

Zucchini Baseball
Select a zucchini that you can get a good firm grip on.
Grab a few plump tomatoes (or anything that can substitute as a ball) and go to town.

Homesteading: A Backyard Guide

11 thoughts on “5 Things to Do with Leftover Garden Produce”

  • fauna

    At one time we lived far away from our families and emergency resources. During this time we actually went hungry. Because of this experience I have become keenly aware of food waste. Often the food wasted is even higher quality than that available in grocery stores, such as an individuals garden extras. When you are hungry you will remember very distinctly all the food you once wasted. Your children crying for food is unbearable. What a blessing to have excess! Sharing that high quality food with others can bring a lot of joy and satisfaction to you. So can preserving it. We are blessed to have access to food banks and pantries as they making sharing so much easier when you run out of neighbors, friends or time to dispurse it.
    In many communities there are gleaning programs to share the excess with interested parties and food banks. Volunteer programs are set up to harvest this extra produce and share it where it can be used. I was able to set one up in my community and now tons of apples find a good home that otherwise just covered the ground. Thank you for this great article! I appreciate your focus!!

  • gsteph

    When your zucchini take over and are so big that you need a machete to get through the skin....put into a blender (or other Processor), then measure into freezer bags the exact amout for your zucchini bread recipe. The small bags fit into gaps in the freezer and you have great bread, with little prep time all winter long. AND you don't waste any of the almost inedible zucchini!

  • Betty

    where I live, we can't just give away our produce. first, the "authorities" have to come over and test my soil to make sure there aren't any "gremlins" in it, then they have to make sure we followed all the city regulations, ie: did we "farm" where we weren't supposed to, etc., then, they have to test the produce to make sure IT doesn't have any "gremlins" and then if I pass ALL those tests, I can offer my leftover produce. If I don't, at best they can come and dig up my garden and make me not plant any more, and at worst, they can fine me or even arrest me for not following city regulations.
    Isn't it a shame what government regulations can do to us. We can't even give away our food to the hungry.
    If we just leave it off anonymously, they'll just throw it away. They have to, 'cause if they use it and someone gets sick, they can get sued.
    I know what it's like to go hungry, too. I used to beg for food when I was a kid. And now, I can't even give away my food. Some world!

  • Dina

    I truly appreciate the above letters about having been hungry,(I have been there) but need to comment on your article telling readers to engage in squash bowling and zucchini baseball is extremely inappropriate.

    Food is not to be played with, let's teach our children correctly. Playing with food in this manner is an outrage!

  • june

    I to know what it is to be hungry.i am going to have a garden this tear and will gladly give away what I cant use.it is sinful all the food being thrown away while people are hungry.

  • Jason

    The drought out West and the bad long winter in the Northeast giving away close to nothing. I will can/dehydrate and throw into my compost. By July 2014 I heard a gallon of milk will be $5.00 or so. According to farmers almanac around September 2014 we in the Northeast should be expecting another Sandy hurricane.

  • Jeffrey Greenspan
    Jeffrey Greenspan May 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    When I was a kid, we lived in the country on a dairy farm. The only time we had to lock our door was during zucchini season. Otherwise, if you went away without locking your door, when you got back, your whole kitchen would be full of zucchini. God bless those wonderful neighbors and friends. Its not like that anymore.

  • Northwoods Cheryl
    Northwoods Cheryl May 11, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    I plant extra produce intentionally for my farm animals besides myself. I usually either can or dehydrate the excess I have. I often make things like beef stew and can that, chicken vegetable (add pasta or rice when it's time to eat it)etc. I put the dehydrated fruits and vegetables into my preps. It's good for YEARS if stored in an airtight container (I use canning jars and just pack them with the dry goods) and may someday be very much needed. We still have frost in the ground here and can't even till our gardens yet! (Northern Wisconsin) I plant extra carrots for the horse and chickens, as well as things like turnips if I have the space. I grow about 75% of the food I eat.

  • mike

    Raise rabbits.

  • RKM

    my son and I made a Trebuchet (long arm catapult) for a physics class. I am going to do the garden ting this year, what ever doesn't go into the chicken pen or a compost heap I am going to "catapult" into a neighbors field.

  • Lynn H.

    Let's all keep on growing and pickling

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