This morning when I went out to my garden, I noticed a glorious sight: ripe tomatoes, and my first green beans! It’s always exciting to harvest home grown vegetables, but especially if you’re growing in a small space, your harvests may also be small. In this article, I get into how to deal with small vegetable harvests.
Embrace Small Vegetable Harvests!
First, I want to encourage you to embrace small vegetable garden harvests. The thing that I love about small harvests is that you can eat what you harvest on the day you harvest it. You don’t have to take the time to can the harvest, prepare it for freezing, or dehydrate it. You don’t end up with it rotting in your fridge because you didn’t quite get around to eating or preserving it on time.
So, rather than being discouraged by small harvests, look at the benefits of that harvest, namely being able to eat food as you harvest it. It doesn’t get any fresher or more delicious than that!
Look at What Vegetables will Soon Be Ready to Harvest
Next, look at what vegetables will be ready for harvest in the next few days. You may have only picked four green beans today, and yet you can see that there’s another eight or ten that will be ready in just a couple of days. If that’s the case, you can safely put what you harvest today in the fridge until you have enough for a nice sized serving of vegetables for you and (if applicable) your family.
Freeze Garden Vegetables Until You Have Enough
The next thing I want to encourage you to do if you harvest just a little at a time and you don’t have more coming soon is to immediately prep and freeze what you harvest.
Now I’m not overly keen on this idea because one reason I grow my own food is because I want to eat it fresh. Fresh food indeed tastes better, and it is also more nutritious.
Having said that, freezing until you have enough is better than having your fresh vegetables go bad before you have a chance to harvest enough.
Embrace Vegetable Medleys
One of my favorite things to do with my small harvests is to create vegetable medleys. Now chances are you aren’t going to find any recipes that call for four green beans, two baby eggplant, and one zucchini, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cook those vegetables together.
When creating vegetable medleys, I like to sauté them in a bit of olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper. It seems almost all vegetables taste good when prepared that way, and I haven’t had any bad experiences when preparing a random assortment of fresh vegetables this way.
When preparing a vegetable medley, add vegetables in based on how long they take to cook. As an example, if I had one bell pepper and one squash, I’d start by cooking the bell pepper until it was half done, and then adding in the squash, since I don’t like my squash overly soft.
Combine Fresh, Frozen, Canned, and Dehydrated Vegetables to Make a Soup
There is nothing like a vegetable soup that has a wide variety of vegetables. Since I dehydrate a lot of vegetables, I find it helpful to combine dehydrated and fresh vegetables in a soup. I might toss in some dehydrated onion, peppers, corn, carrots, and broccoli, along with those four green beans I just harvested. I can also take a look at my freezer and see if I have any frozen vegetables I’d like to use up.
Canned vegetables are my least favorite thing to add in for a couple of reasons. First, if I’m making a soup with several vegetables and I toss in a can of this and a can of that, before I know it, I end up with a huge pot of soup. This is not a bad thing if you’re cooking for a large family, but not so good if you’re single or are empty nesters. This is one reason I prefer dehydrating over canning; it’s easy to toss in a tablespoon or two of this or that vegetable. An exception that I make to this is that a can of beans is a great addition to vegetable soup because of the protein boost.
Add Fresh Vegetables to a Salad
This idea is very similar to the vegetable soup idea. I love salads with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I always have an assortment of greens growing, and I use those as the base for my salad. I then add in an assortment of vegetables that I harvested that day. As an example, in addition to salad greens, I may have a handful of cherry tomatoes, a couple of radishes, and some green onions or chives that I can snip. I love salad when it has an assortment of vegetables because they taste great and are very colorful. Salads are a great way to use a handful of random vegetables from your garden.
Keep a Garden Journal and Adapt
Finally, if you really want to have larger harvests, you can plant more of a specific type of vegetable next season. You might think that you’ll remember everything, but I’ve found that my memory isn’t as good as I’d like to think. For instance, by the time next season rolls around, I might not remember how many green bean plants I planted, how long it took to harvest the green beans, how many green beans I harvested in total, and so on. I might just remember that I didn’t get enough green beans last year, so by golly I’m going to plant a lot this year!
Planting a lot of one thing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but especially if you’re growing food in a small space, planting a lot of one thing means sacrificing the opportunity to grow other things. And unless you’re prepared to preserve your harvest, if you plant too much you may find that your home grown vegetables go bad before you have a chance to harvest them.
As you approach the next garden season, refer to your garden journal and plan accordingly.