We're ending our How To Garden series by learning how to store vegetables!  You have built your beds, amended your soil, weeded, watered, and nurtured your garden.  Now you have been rewarded with an abundance of veggies and you might just be wondering...

"What the heck am I going to do with this many zucchini?"

or tomatoes, or beans, or corn... Well I'm here today to help you with this late summer dilemma...and no we are not going to leave zucchini on all the neighbor's doorsteps.  I certainly would not do such a thing...well, rarely. Of course my first suggestion is to eat as much fresh as possible. Go out to your garden each morning to see what you have ripening.  Use this list to make your meal plans for the day...

How To Store Vegetables

Cook "Em Up!

1.  If you have an over abundance of spinach make a spinach salad or spinach lasagna with eggplant if you have them. 2.  Tomatoes are good fresh, juiced, and roasted over pasta or french bread. 3.  Roast extra bell peppers for adding to pasta sauce, pizza, or eat them straight from the BBQ...my favorite! 4.  Make zucchini bread or use them in pasta salads.

Preserve Veggies for Winter

Preserve for Winter

5. There is no end to the different recipes for using fresh from the garden produce, but...if you have just too many to use and your friends have stopped answering when you call to give them squash, then we move onto preserving these goodies for winter! The easiest way of preserving food in my opinion is simply freezing it. Each year I seriously over plant zucchini...I know original huh? When my family cannot eat one more bite that contains this summer squash I freeze the extra.

I simply shred it and put 3 cups in each freezer bag, take out the air and flatten and throw it in the deep freeze.  All I have to do in December is pull out a bag, thaw and have the exact amount I need for a double batch of zucchini bread.  Which by the way, my family seems to appreciate more in the dead of winter...go figure!

Although most veggies are easy to freeze, most will not have the same texture as they do fresh.  So be prepared to use your vegges in cooked dishes, not raw.  Here is a great site from Oregon State University about freezing both fruits and veggies.

In the above pic I'm roasting homegrown peppers on the bbq to peel, slice and freeze for winter pizzas!

Dehydrating Fruits and Veggies

6.  Next in line for ease is dehydrating fruits and veggies.  If you live in a hot dry climate this might actually be the easiest but if you are like me it involved either a dehydrator or low oven.  Drying involves taking the moisture out of the produce so it will not decay.  Things that have been dehydrated are great for homemade granola and trail mix, throwing in soups, and re-hydrating for use in dishes.  You can even dry onions and garlic to grind into powders for homemade seasonings!

Here is a great link that has information of drying food...it even includes plans for building your own solar dehydrator!

Canning

7.  Finally there is canning...ohhh you can make some wonderful things in a hot water bath canner!  Jams, jellies, pickles, ketchup, salsa...the list is simply endless.

Canning is certainly the most expensive and time consuming of all the preservation types, but there is simply nothing like a pantry full of home canned goodies to make your dark days of winter a little brighter!

Canning also involves a bit of knowledge to keep food safe.  For the beginner I always recommend starting with something easy like jam.  Fruit, sugar, pectin and a few jars in a hot water canner is all that is needed to be very successful at jam and jelly making.  Vegetables require a bit more know how and sometimes a pressure cooker for good food safety but many local extension offices have handouts or classes on safe canning.  Here is a link for the National Center for Home Food Preservation that is a wealth of information on canning.  Once you learn to can you just may find it simply addictive, I know I did!

Be creative with all the homegrown goodness, cook, freeze, dry, can, and enjoy the bounty from your garden!  So what about you?

What is your favorite way (or recipe) to use bounty from your garden?

How to Garden Series:

Step 1 - Ground Site Selection Step 2 – Improve Gardening Soils Step 3 – Garden Beds, Pockets and Pots 101 Step 4 – What To Plant Step 5 – Gardening with Children Step 6 – Top 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow From Seed Step 7 – Cut Flower Gardening 101 Step 8 - Container Gardening 101 Step 9 – How to Grow a Salsa Garden Step 10 – How to grow a Perennial Garden Step 11 – How to Grow Strawberries In Your Garden Step 12 – Six Steps to Reduce Water Needed in My Garden Step 12 – Five Best Herbs Go Grow for Kitchen Use Step 13 – Waging War on Weeds Step 14 - Plant and Gardening Pest Control Step 15 - How to Preserve Water in your garden Step 16 - 7 Ways To Store Vegetables  {from garden}

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Kim is a small organic farmer who lives in the Pacific Northwest raising organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel! She blogs at the inadvertent farmer where she dishes on living the authentic country life. She also hosts a yearly summer-long series and contest called KinderGARDENS that is aimed at instilling the love of gardening to the next generation believing that dirty hands make for healthy happy kids!