What to do with your produce when you go on vacation (don’t throw it away!)
Summer is the time for an abundance of fresh vegetables, maybe a farm share, or a kitchen garden. But summer is also time for traveling. These are two of my favorite things, but unfortunately the two do not mix.
Keeping a garden requires daily watering, occasionally weeding, and regular attention. A farm share needs to be picked up weekly – and quickly consumed before the next pick up, which is a challenge I’ll gladly accept, but sometimes it is a little daunting. Throw a vacation into the mix and you’ll wind up with A LOT of rotten veggies.
If you’re not around to eat all those veggies, they could quickly turn into compost – or worse, be thrown in the trash. Waste is by far my biggest pet peeve — efficiency is almost an obsession of mine. Or, at the very least, it’s a solid habit. Waste is the byproduct of inefficiency. Wasting food drives me NUTS. I also love food, and throwing it out is just tragic.
Composting makes wasted produce less-awful. With a farm share or garden, there is a TON of compostable waste from all the veggies you chop up. By not throwing it in your trash can, you keep it out of landfills, and with minimal effort, you can compost it in your backyard or a vermi-composter. Your waste will transform into vitamin-rich dirt on to nourish your garden or lawn.
It’s like magic. Dirty magic.
So, when it’s time to go on vacation, but you have a fridge full of produce that you can’t possibly use before you leave – no matter how many dinner parties you host – you have three options:
- Compost it, or throw it away.
- Bring it with you.
- Preserve it.
Earlier this month, I picked up my farm share, knowing that the giant bin of vegetables would need to be consumed in 4 days before I left for two weeks in Hawaii. Consuming this many veggies in just FOUR DAYS wouldn’t be easy, in fact it might be impossible.
What made it more difficult was the pile of leftover vegetables in the fridge from the farm share of the week before, and the bushel of tomatoes that decided to ripen in my garden that same week. Not to mention the dozen eggs I hadn’t cracked into and the quart of homemade yogurt I made with local milk. My fridge was full, and since option #1 is pretty much not an option for me, I started slicing and dicing.
Here’s what happened…
Quick pickling eggs is super easy and they taste 1000 times better than regular eggs, which already taste awesome. I generally followed this recipe, reducing the amount of sugar and not peeling the beets, which meant I preserved my onions, two bunches of beets, and all my eggs all in one project. WIN!
Different vegetables need different preservation techniques. Pickled tomatoes just didnt sound good … but tomatoes sauce does! I didn’t have time to make tomato sauce before I left so I threw all those tomatoes in the freezer and made it when I got back from vacation.
Radishes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, beans, peppers, and a lot of the veggies can all be pickled. Here’s a recipe from epicurious that is similar to my recipe, except I use equal parts sugar and salt in mind, in this case I’d use 5 tablespoons of each.
Some vegetables can survive a two week hiatus in the fridge. Squash, potatoes, lemons, broccoli and cabbage are a couple examples that weathered the weeks just fine. The broccoli was a little wilted, but it will be cooked up anyway.
In an effort to eat as many veggies as possible before I left, I had made grilled eggplant and zucchini for dinner the night before my flight. Unfortunately there were leftovers, which I promptly stuffed in the freezer.
After returning I thawed them and threw them in the blender with some beans, olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon, salt and pepper, for a delicious veggie-bean hummus!
I knew my herb garden wouldn’t survive my vacation, and with the crisp fall nights closing in, it wasn’t looking too productive anyway. I harvested all the herbs and froze them in baggies, and composted the stalks. The frozen herbs will keep like this for months and I can enjoy fresh-ish herbs well into winter!
It’s not intuitive, but dairy can also be frozen. I froze my yogurt and after thawing it, it tastes just fine! The texture is a little funny and the whey looks like it’s separated, so I think I’ll stir it up and send it through a cheese cloth to smooth it out.
While I didn’t have any excess fruit this time, I was lucky enough to have a peach tree and apricot tree in my yard when I lived in Arizona, so I know a thing or two about an over-abundance of fruit. You can cut it up and freeze it, slice it and dry it in a dehydrator (or the hot Arizona Sun, like I did), make popsicles, or turn it into schnapps. Different fruits work best with different treatments, so experiment (or google it!) and see what will work for the type of fruit you have.
I also brought some cut veggies as snacks for the 13+ hour flight. The TSA security lady thought it was funny that I had so many veggies in my bag, which they needed to rifle through to confirm that I had, in fact, stuffed three ziplocks of veggies into my carry on.
Since they were in clear baggies, it was all good. But even though you’re allowed to bring cut veggies on a plane, I would not recommend it. The carrot sticks didn’t mind being out of the fridge, but the cut peppers, cucumber slices, and cherry tomatoes are not very resilient at room temperature while crammed in a small carry-on.
When you get home from vacation you can dive into those pickled eggs and veggies, make some tomatoes sauce with REAL tomatoes, and fire up the blender for some roasted veggie hummus. The grocery store can wait a few days while you fend off the jet lag, sleep in, and feast on your preserves.