It’s that time. Summer’s winding down and moms are trying to get their acts together for the start of a new school year. Okay, so what does that have to do with gardening tips? How many times have you reached this point in your gardening season, only to feel completely overwhelmed at the amount of work an abundant harvest requires? You love your garden. You’re happy as all get out that it has produced this year. However, the thought of spending hours upon hours in a hot kitchen next to a pressure cooker or stockpot isn’t exactly your idea of end-of-summer fun, right?
Would you be relieved if I were to tell you that you don’t have to can your garden produce? There are other ways to make good use of it. Easier ways. Convenient ways. Less tedious ways. I decided to stop canning when our household became full of teenagers who could eat what I canned faster than I could shelve it. My husband and I decided we are in a consumption, rather than preservation time of life.
Gardening tips when you live with hungry teens
I used to line all my carefully canned jars of homegrown goodness on the shelves in my basement storage room. Frustration would quickly set in as I’d watch my kids snagging jars of pickles, salsa and what-not, sometimes just a few days later. No matter how much I grew, how much I canned, I just couldn’t keep those shelves stocked.
Enter: Best gardening tips, ever!
That’s when I learned two beautiful harvest words: Pickling and freezing. You can freeze many of the fresh vegetables you usually can. You can pickle a lot of them, too. There are also delicious refrigerated food recipes that do not require standing over a hot stove for hours on end. Best of all, since you make them for consumption, not preservation, you won’t get upset (and may actually be delighted) when your family gobbles them up!
Process your veggies before freezing
Going to back to school likely means your schedule will be busy. The thought of those nights where you’re scrambling to make dinner is enough to make your head spin. Remember how stressful it is, after picking up kids from after-school activities or getting home late from work? Use these end-of-season gardening tips to simplify your lifestyle and make dinner prep more convenient!
Stir fry is so yummy but if you make it fresh, it takes time to slice and chop all the vegetables (and steak, chicken or whatever meat you’re using). Instead of canning your veggies, freeze them in various styles, already prepped for supper-making. Cut strips of green, yellow, sweet or hot peppers. If you purchase grass-fed beef or local poultry, or have venison on hand, you can also cut these meats into strips so stir fry becomes quick and easy on a busy school night.
Pre-diced, frozen veggies are your friends
Along with those gardening tips for the harvest, you can prep food for soups, stews and chili, as well. Simply stuff quart-sized freezer bags (or smaller, if you prefer) with diced vegetables from your garden. Chop up onions, peppers, kale, spinach and tomatoes or green beans ahead of time. Throughout fall and winter, when you want to use the crock pot or stove top for delicious soup or chili, simply thaw your diced veggies overnight and toss them in. (You can even add them still frozen, just keep in mind it will lower the temperature of whatever you’re cooking.)
Additional gardening tips for harvest time
Have tomatoes coming out your ears but no time to can or make sauce right now? You can run them through your food processor, then store in quart or gallon-sized freezer bags. That puts you one step ahead of the game when you do want to make homemade spaghetti sauce. You can also use your processed tomatoes to make a variety of delicious soups by adding a bag full to beef broth. Did you grow corn? Blanch it, cut it off the cobs and place in large freezer bags with a couple pats of butter and some salt and pepper to taste. You now have a ready-to-eat, scrumptious side dish!
Pickling and refrigerated yummies should be part of your end-of-season gardening tips, as well. There’s nothing like freshly made salsa or a jar of bread and butter pickles that took less than an hour to make. Refrigerated pickles, jams or salsas last quite a while in the fridge. You can feel good about your kids grabbing these snack foods! (Well, maybe the jam, not so much, but at least you can use raw sugar or Stevia instead of processed junk.)
Don’t feel guilty for not canning
My final gardening tips today are to accept your own limitations when you have a busy schedule. Don’t feel bad that you aren’t doing things the way your great-great-grandma did. Is canning useful? Definitely. Is it nice to have shelves lined with pretty mason jars full of tasty, healthy, homegrown food? Absolutely.
However, you are still providing healthy goodness that tastes delicious if you cut yourself some slack and skip the canning this year. The best gardening tips are the ones that make you feel happy about your garden, not stressed!