A Tall Glass of Garden Harvest

Every year, when late summer is at its peak, and autumn begins to peer around the corner, we are faced with an important question – what am I going to do with all of my excess garden harvest? And usually we answer that question by sharing with our families, friends, and neighbors, donating to a food bank, and making all sorts of culinary delights. However, what do we do when family, friends, and neighbors start barring the door when they see us coming with more zucchini, when the food banks are unable to take any more, and when we’ve had our fill of salads and zucchini bread? Well, I’d like to suggest another option of which you may not thought. How about creating beverages out of your garden harvest. What kinds of beverages? Allow me to elaborate.

Juices and non-alcoholic ciders– this is somewhat obvious, but also fairly easy to create. Juices can be extracted from your garden vegetables either by cooking the juices in filtered water, then straining out the fibrous plant material (juices), or by cold-pressing the vegetables in a screw-driven press (cider). Your juices and ciders will taste fresh, and best of all, you can serve them to your family with confidence, knowing that there are no potentially harmful preservatives.

Alcoholic ciders – this involves taking the juice you’ve extracted from your garden fruits and vegetables and putting it through a fermentation process. It requires an initial expense of equipment and ingredients, but it can be done, and it doesn’t require years of experience. You can purchase cider-making kits online that not only have all the equipment and ingredients in one package, but also come with detailed instructions.

Wine – what, you say? Wine? But isn’t wine made from grapes? Well yes, but not exclusively so. In ancient times, growing grapes was considered a luxury. But that didn’t stop those of lesser means from making wine. They simply made it from whatever they were growing in their gardens – herbs, garden fruits and vegetables, potatoes, berries, etc. How about a tomato wine? Or a crabapple wine? Or a mint wine? Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Syrup – can be made in small quantities, can be made easily and quickly. They don’t require processing in a water bath or pressure canner, and have a fairly long shelf life.

Tea – why shell out big bucks for exotic teas made from foreign herbs and flowers when you can make your own tea from your own garden harvest for pennies? Take the money that you would normally spend on that exotic oolong tea and instead invest it in fertilizer, soil, and seeds, and grow your own bee balm, chamomile, red clover, mint, lemon balm, and many other plants, and create your own brand of tea. No muss, no fuss, great taste, potential health benefits, no unpronounceable additives, more money left over in your pocket – what’s not to love?

Making your own refreshing beverages from your garden fruits and vegetables adds many more options for how to use up that excess harvest. So give it a try!

All Together Now

 

On a few occasions I’ve been asked, “Mark, I know that you do both fruit and vegetable gardening and home cheeesemaking. Are those two distinctly separate topics, or can they work together?”

Most definitely, yes, they can work together! In fact, if you combine the two just right, you create wonderful foods that can enhance your dining experiences for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here are some suggestions.

Salads – You can enhance a salad of homegrown garden greens by sprinkling it with some of your homemade Feta cheese. Or how about using your homemade Blue cheese to create your own Blue cheese dressing to pour on your salad?

Infusing cheese with herbs – When making your own cheese, how about creating something distinctive by mixing some herbs into the curds before putting those curds into your cheese press? Some typical herbed cheeses include Caraway Swiss and Havarti with Dill.

Incorporating vegetables into cheese – The sky is the limit when it comes to making vegetable infused cheeses. How about adding some sun-dried tomatoes to your homemade cream cheese? Or a cheddar cheese infused with finely-chopped onions?

Wine-infused cheeses – At first glance, this sounds off topic. What, you might ask, does making a wine-infused cheese have to do with incorporating fruits and vegetables into cheese? Well, if you grow the grapes yourself, make your own wine, and soak your newly-pressed cheese in the wine for a few weeks, then, in a roundabout way, you are combining fruit and cheese. And if you substitute vodka for the wine you now have infused your cheese with a potato byproduct.

“Gee Mark, I’m not sure about this,” you say. “This sounds rather unusual.” Well, I have a one word answer for you – experiment. Try different combinations of fruits, vegetables, and cheese. After all, that’s how new foods are discovered.

“But what if I create something that looks awful and tastes worse?” Seriously? What if you create something that looks pleasing, tastes even better, and wins Cheese of the Year? Isn’t that worth the risk of maybe creating something awful? And if the worst happens, and your Limburger with Brussels sprouts tastes like the inside of a garbage truck? Then you simply toss it away and try a different combination. No one has to know about it but you.

So go ahead. Experiment with different fruit-cheese-vegetable combinations. And embrace the results – good, bad, or otherwise!