Bowls of berries, baskets of veggies and bundles of fresh herbs: Sounds like a great garden, right? But what happens when your home garden has a large harvest and you have more produce than you need or can use? It would seem wasteful to let it rot. Yet it's a bit stressful finding a home for all the garden goodies.
Overabundance is actually a great thing, and it shouldn't be too much of a burden. The key is having a plan for what you'll do with the extras -- before the harvest gets overwhelming.
*Give It Away
When she has extra produce from her community-supported garden, Sarah Hamaker gives away the surplus by listing it on Freecycle.
"We've given away collard greens and squash," says Hamaker, who buys groceries in bulk and likes to share when she has extra food, including meat.
It's also a good idea to share your garden haul with family, friends and co-workers. Post a message on social media; leave a basket of fruit in the office with a note; or set up a simple farm stand outside your home, offering up your surplus for free.
Nutritionist Celina Harp of SmartFood Kitchen suggests canning extra produce.
"Finding a local commercial kitchen is an easy way to knock out a year's worth of canning in a day," she says. "The large, heavy stoves and 20- to 30-quart pans allow you to preserve hundreds of jars in a few hours."
Another option is turning the veggies, such as cabbage and kale, into cultured vegetables. The ancient method of food production, also known as fermentation, preserves food in airtight jars.
"Eating cultured vegetables regularly can contribute to gut health, regularity, immune function and decreased allergies," says Harp, who explains that the veggies' natural bacteria help make the culture.
Keep cultured vegetables at room temperature for about a month or two. After that, they can be refrigerated for up to three years. Hart says the longer you let them sit, the better, as it enhances the flavor and allows more of the beneficial bacteria to grow.
Consider this: Every year, about 6 billion pounds of fresh produce is wasted. Last year alone, Feeding America secured 967 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for people in need.
Local food pantries would love to receive fresh produce donations.
"Providing produce to families in need is an ongoing challenge for food pantries," says Ellie Agar of Hunger Free Colorado, an anti-hunger organization.
Most donations are from drives that collect nonperishable food. And produce received from larger food banks is often ready to spoil by the time it gets to smaller pantries.
A survey of Denver food pantries found that produce was the second-most-wanted item for recipients; protein, such as beef or chicken, was the No. 1 request.
"Local gardeners and producers can fill a critical nutrition gap with their extra produce by donating directly to their local food pantry," says Agar, who advises donors to call ahead to make sure the pantry will accept the fresh food.
Don't worry about legal liability. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects food donors from civil and criminal liability if the food they donated in good faith later causes harm to the recipient.
Depending on how much produce you have, you may be able to sell it.
"You may find it economical to sell at the farmer's market," suggests Harp, who says you'd need enough produce to sell $200 worth per day on a weekly basis to make it worth your while.
While she says most cities only require a food permit if you've used the produce to make and sell other dishes, check into local laws. Large farms need agricultural permits and taxpayer identification numbers to sell their goods.