Creative Ways to Preserve Your Garden Haul

It's not that I'm against canning. It's a straightforward way to save the abundance in your garden. But if one isn't careful when canning at home, botulism is a possibility. Not to mention that canned foods are sometimes, well, basic

Below are some ways to take advantage of your garden haul, and add real zest to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Wake up your Water

Grab a pitcher, fill it with water and drop in an infuser, stuffed with goods from your garden. Chop up your fruit and herbs before placing in the infuser, to release maximum flavor. Depending on what you're growing, here are some spa-worthy combos:

  • Cucumber
  • Cucumber and Mint
  • Strawberry
  • Strawberry & Basil
  • Peach
  • Peach and Basil
  • Mint

You Say Tomato

No doubt this is a big time of year for tomatoes. You can add a punch to your salads year-round by making sun-dried tomatoes. These are a pricey item in stores, so I say take advantage! If you don't have a dehydrator, here's a simple oven recipe. Alas, Virginia summers are way too humid to properly dry them in the sun. Once complete, fill a mason jar with the sun-dried tomatoes, shake on some oregano, basil and garlic salt, then fill to the top with olive oil. It keeps in the fridge for months. Just be sure to take out the jar in advance of any meal to soften the oil. 

If you're growing jalapenos, they can be combined with tomatoes for a kicking salsa that you can freeze. You can also pickle these peppers, or combine with your cucumbers to make jalapeno pickles!

Herbal Essence

Your basil or mint may be in abundance as well, and while your own dried herbs will no doubt be better than store-bought, there are fresher ways to preserve. You can brew fresh mint tea using just mint leaves. Fresh picked basil turns black in the freezer, but if you pulse it with olive oil in a food processor and pour into ice cube trays, you have a vibrant green stockpile of recipe-ready portions in your freezer. 

But before it comes to that -- pesto! I make batches of pesto, pour them into jars and freeze them. Like hummus, pesto requires zero cooking -- only a food processor! I make it so often, that at this point I simply eye it. But this recipe seems about right -- save for the extra garlic I inevitably put in every dish that calls for it (and some that don't).

Enjoy the process, because the fall harvest isn't far behind!

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