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Making the Most out of your Garden

Fresh

 

Late summer into early fall brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, ready to enjoy with any meal.  Whether you garden at home or visit local Farmer’s Markets, we’ve put together some of our best tips and favorite recipes to make the most of the fall harvest.  

August offers a myriad of harvest opportunities.  Keep an eye on your produce to make sure you pick at the optimal time.  If you can, eat vegetables within a day or two of picking to help with the flavor and freshness.  Peppers will only produce what the plant can support, so picking often will promote a better yield, while tomatoes will continue to ripen even off the vine.  It is best to remove fruits and vegetables from the vine, keeping the stem intact, with scissors or garden shears.  Harvesting often means more produce throughout the season. 

Sweet Corn is a late-summer favorite for many.  To check ripeness, push on one of the kernels.  If the juice is a milky shade, it is ready to enjoy.  Clear liquid will need a little more time, and dry kernels have passed their peak.  While buttery corn on the cob exudes summer sweetness, check out our Elote Corn Salad recipe for a grilled corn twist.  

The Fall season can also bring a chill to the air that has many of us reaching for our slow cooker. This time of year is perfect for Butternut Squash.  As a later season vegetable, butternut squash should be firm, and a deep tan color harvested before the first frost.  For ease in cutting, you can slit the skin with a knife and pop them in the microwave for a few minutes to soften them.  Our recipe for Butternut Squash slow cooker soup is delicious and bariatric friendly. 

Sweet Potatoes are having their moment and can be prepared as a sweet or savory dish.  When the leaves start to turn yellow, you can begin to harvest from then until right before the first frost.  Traditionally, we might think of Sweet Potatoes as a Thanksgiving side dish or pie, but we love Sweet Potatoes in this savory breakfast bake with eggs and sausage 


Future

 

If you are lucky enough to have excess produce, freezing and canning are great ways to get you through the winter.  Some vegetables freeze better than others.  Green beans, peas, corn, and carrots, for example, will hold up better than cucumbers and mushrooms, which can get soggy when thawed.  To maintain the vibrant color and flavor, blanch the vegetable before freezing.  Place the vegetables in boiling water (cooking time will vary by type), and place immediately in an ice bath.  Dry your produce and put it in freezer-safe packaging, and don’t forget to label date the contents.  

Pickling can also preserve your yields well into the winter.  While cucumbers don’t freeze well, they are a pickling favorite.  Quick pickles can be ready in as little as an hour with simple, everyday household ingredients like sugar, salt, water, and vinegar.  Other pickling favorites include asparagus, beets, carrots, and mushrooms.  

Both fruits and vegetables are perfect for canning as well.  Jams, jellies, preserves, and sauces bring the freshness of summer into your table in the middle of winter.  Tomatoes make great pasta sauces and salsas.  Adding unflavored protein powder to a pasta sauce is great for vegetarians, or anyone looking for an alternative to meat as a protein source.  A basic fruit jam is easy using just berries, sugar, and lemon juice.  Don’t forget to pick up some mason jars and use new lids for sealing each year.  


Fit

 

Once you are through harvest season, fall is an excellent time to get your garden cleaned up and ready for spring.  Leaves and grass clippings make great mulch to get your garden through the winter.  Digging, hauling, and general yard maintenance work different muscle groups with the benefit of spending time outside.

The late summer and early fall are also a good time to plant trees or shrubs.  The cool air and warm soil promote strong roots before the first heavy frost.  If you have any perennials that need separating, or any early spring blooms like tulips, daffodils, and pansies to plant, you can enjoy the cooler Autumn temperatures while preparing for a thing of beauty in the spring.  

Whether you garden alone to destress, with your kids to get them excited about eating vegetables, or in a community garden open to all, gardening promotes a rewarding, healthy, and active lifestyle.  



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