Visualize Your Overwhelming Harvest

Bottled tomatoes

Sure, you are just planning your garden or maybe planting seeds now, but you can also visualize and prepare for the results of your gardening. What are you going to do when you are overwhelmed with your harvest?

Most of my recent abundance has come in the form of mint. I have chocolate mint, lemon mint, peppermint, and nice, plain mint. Every year it gets stronger and pushes out the other herbs. Every year I get more mint than the last—more mint of a kind of peppery, chocolaty, lemon flavor. We put mint in salads, in salsa, in meals, in tea. We can’t even come close to eating all of the mint. So, we preserve it. Like my mother, I reach for mint at the first suggestion of stomach upsets, so a lot of our mint becomes tea. Knowing we will use it for tea, we dry our mint. We have enough mint tea for a year or more packed into big, beautiful mason jars.

If you are fortunate, your harvest will be plentiful. Prepare now so that good food does not go to waste.

Eat it
Pick food as it ripens, and eat it as you go.

Prepare: You don’t really need to plan for eating as you go other than choosing your crops carefully. Make sure you like them. The year I planted row after row of arugula, I was very sad. I had a refrigerator full of greens that smelled like stinky feet, and I could not force myself to eat them.

Serve it
Throw a harvest party. Sure, that’s what Thanksgiving is, but most of our food ripens long before Thanksgiving. Throw a party with fresh raspberries in late June, fresh corn in July, and fresh everything in August.

Prepare: Don’t plan your family vacation during the prime two weeks for harvesting fresh food. Block out the best party times now and talk them up with friends and family. Ask now if they want to come stay for the weekend in late summer so they will definitely be available.

Give it away
Where I grew up, the harvest season joke was playing ding-dong-ditch and leaving giant zucchini on neighbors’ doorsteps. No one I knew ever managed to eat all of their zucchini as they picked it, and no one ever visited my mother in the summer without taking away a few vegetables. I think that sharing food is one of the best parts of harvest.

Prepare: Ask your friends and neighbors what they are planting. Plant something different. Anticipate the trade or giveaway. If you don’t know your neighbors, you have relationships to cultivate.

Preserve it
If you garden, chances are you will end up with more of some food than you can handle while fresh. Dry it, freeze it, pickle it, ferment it, bottle it, or turn it into jelly. The best ways to preserve food depend on what you plant and how you eat.

Prepare: Now is the time to learn to preserve food when the only other thing you have to do is watch your seedlings grow. Once you are faced with a bushel of tomatoes, it’s too late to do more than fumble around with a how-to book. If you want to eat from the bountiful harvest of your own garden year round, you need to understand how you want to use it. Do you want to freeze tomato soup that is ready to heat and eat? Do you want to make salsa with your tomatoes, onions, and peppers, ready to pour out of the jar? Do you want homemade ketchup? How about sun-dried tomatoes? Do you want to put whole tomatoes in jars so you can decide later how best to use them? Let your future use of the food determine how you preserve it. Then, start asking around. Can your mother or grandmother teach you to preserve food? Is there a class at the local college or agricultural university extension? Maybe you can even learn from a book if you give yourself enough time. Choose a method, and set out to become competent.

And, visualize your future abundance as you watch your seedlings grow.

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