How to Make the Most of Your Extra Harvests
Studies have shown that Tower Garden-grown plants can produce up to 30 percent greater yields than those growing in soil.
But if you’re like most Tower Gardeners, you probably don’t need a study to tell you that. By August, you’re likely harvesting a bounty of fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruits daily.
So what do you do with the seemingly endless supply of produce?
Well, the first step should be obvious: enjoy it! But if you’ve eaten your fill and still have food left over, consider using it in these three ways.
1. Save the abundance for another day.
When you’ve got more food than you can eat, one of the most natural responses is to save it for later. And if you take the proper precautions, you could feast on your summer harvests throughout the winter.
Here are three common techniques for saving food:
- Drying is the best (and simplest) way to save most herbs. But you can also dry heartier crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, with the help of a dehydrator or oven.
- Freezing protects the flavor and nutritional content of produce (but usually not the texture). A wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs respond well to freezing.
- Canning requires the greatest amount of time and work. But you’ll be rewarded with rations of vine-ripened tomato sauce, pickled produce, and other homegrown goodies that you can enjoy any time of year.
For details and more ideas, check out this full post on food preservation techniques »
2. Share the wealth — and health!
When you give your excess harvests away, you enrich the lives of others. And is there a more honorable or fulfilling use for those extra heirloom tomatoes?
If you’re in the giving mood, here are a few ideas to try:
- Trade yields with your neighbors — and build relationships in the process. Food Swap Network and CropSwap (coming soon) may help you find other gardeners in your area.
- Gift your garden goods to friends and relatives. If you use the preservation techniques above, you can even make budget-friendly holiday presents in advance.
- Donate unused produce to your community, and prevent food waste. You can locate nearby food pantries with AmpleHarvest.org.
3. Sell your hyper-local harvests.
You’ll need quite a lot of produce to satisfy market demand. But if you feel up to the growing (and marketing) challenge, potential customers include:
- Farmers markets attract crowds of locavores and veggie-lovers. But bear in mind, you’ll likely need to meet certain criteria — certifications, permits, and so on — set by your local jurisdiction. (You’ll also need quite a lot of produce to satisfy demand.)
- Chefs and restaurant owners know the worth of locally sourced ingredients, which makes them a great audience to target. To increase your odds of winning their business, identify a few restaurants that you think would be a good fit, and visit with samples during non-peak times (i.e., not Saturday night).
- Community-supported agriculture (CSA) customers provide a steady source of income and reliable destination for your produce. Plus, you can start small and scale your operation over time. So launching your own CSA program can be a relatively low-pressure endeavor.
If you find you have a knack for selling produce, you may want to consider a career change. I hear urban farming is a hot industry right now…
What will you do with your bountiful yields?
As your garden reaches its peak production stage this summer, I hope these ideas help you make the most of your harvests.
Do you have any questions or advice of your own? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.
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