This time of year it’s actually possible to feel overwhelmed with the abundance of garden produce. Those carefully tended plants that were so small and vulnerable a few months ago are now towering masses of chlorophyll, mightily churning sunlight into huge mounds of fruit and seed that beg to be gathered and picked. Even a distracted gardener who may have thrown a few squash seeds in the ground and planted a tomato seedling or two may now be contemplating what to do with the pile of vegetables crowding their basket. There are basically three options: eat it, preserve it or give it away.
EAT IT: My children are starting to dread the middle of summer. Cucumber sandwiches and cucumber soup for lunch, really mom? Tomato salad for snack, ugh. Spaghetti squash for dinner, yuck. Zucchini cake for dessert, again? That’s when I start to get creative. This is not always a good thing. Tomato burgers? Grated butternut squash omelette? Peppers stuffed with chopped kale and rice? Then I just get desperate. Five bean salad with tomato and onion at every meal. Or that soup where I sauté onions and then add every garden vegetable I need to get rid of and then give it a new name each night hoping the family won’t notice. (Note: “Green Goblin Goop” was not a hit)
PRESERVE IT: Every summer there comes a time when I look over a pile of delectable fresh and oh-so-ephemeral veggies and think, hmm…how can I turn this into tasteless mush that will last forever? Or at least it seems that way. Because, really, when you think about it, there isn’t a lot of sense to trying to preserve that delicate, organic, lusciously-plump heirloom tomato. Can it and you get something that in taste and texture pretty much imitates the cans of peeled tomatoes that cost $.79 at the supermarket ($.59 on sale). Freeze it and you take up half the space of your freezer to preserve mildly tomato-tasting water. ‘Sun’-dry and you take half a day to make chewy tomato-leather. Those delicious sweet, crisp cucumbers? You can pickle them to make something garlicky and salty that at best can be kept a few weeks longer in your fridge and at worse is barely as good as the stuff you can get at the deli. Squash? Boil and smash then can or freeze but why bother, it’s just mush anyway. Beans? Freeze-dried sadness. Greens? Furgettaboutit.
GIVE IT AWAY: So you might have figured out by now that this is really the best way I believe one should divest oneself of extra garden produce (that is unless you run a family farm, in which of course you should sell it at the best price you can to every non-gardening city-slicker who drives by looking for a taste of authenticity.) Which means one should, ideally, surround oneself with friends, family and neighbors who themselves do not have gardens. This is sometimes hard to do. With great planning you can each specialize in a different produce and then share but this can backfire when you are stuck with a garden of beans and spinach and your neighbor with the delicious tomatoes is pissed because your dog barks at six every morning. For this reason I’m hoping visitors can use this site for the exchange and barter of extra veggies. If not, you better watch out–I might be handing you a bag of lemon cucumbers and yellow pear tomatoes some day soon.