Can, freeze and donate bounty from your summer gardens
August 10, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Summer gardens are a treasure trove of tasty treats. Ripe strawberries abound, string beans spring up faster than you can pick them, and the raspberries and blackberries multiply exponentially.
While it’s nice to bite into a succulent ripe apple that fell to the ground, the apple tree you inherited from your home’s previous owners can sometimes produce more fruit than you can possibly find time to store. You’d bake another pie for the neighbor, but she threatened you with bodily harm should you bring another and derail her triathlon training.
So, what do you do with your garden’s bounty when there’s just too much?
It’s the most logical thing to do with an abundance of food. After all, people clean out pantries and donate canned food to community meal programs. But donating your fresh produce to the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank can be even better.
It is something community garden organizers, and even the city of Issaquah, have been doing for years.
In fact, the city just made a 72-pound donation of fresh produce to the food bank a few weeks ago, according to Pickering Garden coordinator Laura Matter, who works for Seattle Tilth. The mix included garlic, chard, kale, lettuce, basil, fennel, onion, garlic, turnips and turnip greens.
“We’re doing some amazing stuff,” Senior Resource Conservation Manager MaryJoe de Beck said, “although, it’s now just being harvested, because it took so long to warm up here that it’s still early in the season.”
For former Klahanie Pea-Patch organizer Roy Oehler, donating part of the community’s bounty was something he talked to food bank organizers about even before getting the first crop.
“They love to have fresh produce, especially when it is grown organically, which is what most people do in their own gardens,” he said. “They need whatever you can bring, because the people who use the food bank as a resource need all the help they can get.”
The food and clothing bank serves people in the 98075, 98029, 98027 and 98059 ZIP codes.
Families whose children typically get breakfast and lunch through school free and reduced-price meal programs aren’t getting those meals when school is out for summer. That causes additional financial hardship for many families.
You can also check with your church or even one of the many homeless encampments, like Tent City 4, which Issaquah hosted from January to April, Oehler said.
“If you have excess food, especially fresh vegetables and fruits, there is never any reason for it to go to waste,” he said. “I cry when I see it go to waste, because there are people just begging for it.”
Of course, you can also save some fresh fruits and veggies for yourself. Schedule a half-day every week to pick and process your garden’s latest crops. Canning and freezing are two really good methods to preserve them.
Beans, corn, beets, asparagus, peppers, cucumbers, peas, peaches and pears all can very well.
“Growing up, my mother did a lot of canning. I got so sick and tired of green beans and beets, because they lasted for 10 years,” Oehler said. “Canned beets, pickled beets, stewed beets, but she fed a family of five and we didn’t have very much money. If it wasn’t for her canning and her gardening, we probably wouldn’t have eaten very much.”
Oehler’s preferred method of storing many of his fruits and veggies, though, he said is freezing them. Foods that freeze really well are berries, apples, corn, beans, peas, carrots and grapes.
“My wife and I, we never buy canned vegetables. If we buy them, we buy frozen, because they actually taste better,” because it preserves the flavor and texture better, he said. “We freeze a lot of our own, too.
“Just wash them good, dry them up completely and put them in a bag and stick them in the freezer,” he said. “It’s really easy.”
You can also make pickled foods, like pickles and spicy green beans, or you can make jam from berries.