(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 10, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
As the harvesting is coming to a close for this season, many of us have long since begun the process of pickling, canning, and freezing our excess vegetables. But what happens when you have that proverbial bad bunch? What do you do with the vegetables that you cannot use for what ever reason? Let me tell you what we have done around here. I am a firm believer in never throwing something away if there is another use for it. We have found a way to make every piece of food grown on our property count.
As everyone is aware the cost of things continues to rise and food is not excluded from that. For example, a dozen eggs here in Northwest Florida have risen over a dollar in the last year and are expected to continue to continue to rise. In order to help lower the grocery bill in our own household, we purchased six laying hens. I have no desire to have a large operation at the moment; I just wanted to offset the cost of food a bit. As I was peeling the last of a dozen and a half five gallon buckets of fruits and vegetables, I looked around me and saw all of the waste. There were squishy pears, slightly slimy apples, and there were so many wormy squash this year that it was painful to see the waste.
As I was gathering the eggs, I saw those buckets in my mind's eye and began thinking about how very much the chickens loved the leftover salads from the kitchen. So I carried one bucket of leftovers and passed over's out to the chickens. They went absolutely wild for it. I have continued in this manner through out the remainder of my canning process. Not only do the chickens love the veggies but they also seem to be laying, on average, an extra two eggs per day with the fresh veggies. We have also managed to offset our feed prices so we are saving money in that department now as well. When the next crop goes in we intend to attempt to grow about seventy percent or so of our chickens' feed, we also intend to increase our "herd" by about a dozen more chicks in the spring.
Once you have finished all of your canning for the year and filled the freezer. You may realize that you still have an abundance of perfectly good fruits and vegetables. It is hard to know what to do with them. There is the option of the Farmers Market, a place where you yourself can sell your vegetables (usually after paying a small fee for a table or booth), or you can sell your products to another vendor for slightly less than that person gets for their vegetables and fruits and they will then in turn sell the produce to the public.
Now, if a profit is not needed, nor do you need to recoup your own expenses, then charity close to home is always an excellent choice. You can usually donate fresh garden produce to your local homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, food pantries, or missions. These are all very good options in my opinion. Due to limited space for garden plots in the city, many of these shelters are not able to grow fresh vegetables. With the cost of produce continuing to rise, donations of these fresh fruits and vegetables are the only opportunity that some of these organizations have to offer this to their consumers.
Happy Gardening and Don't forget to share your leftovers with some one.
Photos are courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com/