As summer comes to a close, the harvest from your garden and foraging excursions begins to stack up faster than you can eat it. There's still fruit hanging on the tree after your last round of canning and the late season pumpkins are ripening on the vine. It’s time to make use of it all. Once you’ve canned and frozen your fill you might be feeling guilty about the unused harvest when your family is less than enthusiastic about zucchini for dinner again. Perhaps it’s time to get baking so you can include your fresh ingredients without coercing your toddler to eat carrots for the fourth night in a row. After all, crisp fall evenings are the perfect time to pull baked goods out of the oven. If you are seeking inspiration for ways to hide your abundant harvest in baked goods, here’s the spark you need.
Pie is an American favorite. If you look beyond the song-worthy, nationally recognized favorite, apple pie, there are many other summer goodies hiding in your garden that make an excellent pie. For example, if blackberries or marionberries are still rapidly producing this time of season so why not make a pie for a rewarding after dinner treat? These can even be made ahead of time to coincide with your harvests. Freeze pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. But don’t stop there. Apricots, peaches, cherries, rhubarb and of course pumpkin pair perfectly with a flaky crust too. Of course, there are also variations of pies that make a nice dessert, such as cobblers, crisps, and tarts. Try a tart with plums on top for a memorable treat.
Now that the kids are back in school, it’s a great time to greet them at the end of the day with the smell of fresh baked cookies. Throw some of your harvest in and bump your run of the mill cookies up a notch with festive fall flavor. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies will lift anybody’s spirits on a long Monday. Or try lemon and blueberry cookies. You can even hide some carrots, zucchini, and spinach in sweet confections for a bit of a nutritious boost.
There are endless options when it comes to cakes. Of course, carrot cake has made a name for herself and it can be made fresh or frozen for later use. Apple cake, pear cake, and rhubarb cake can take many forms. You can also throw some pumpkin in with your chocolate cake or add berries to the lemon cake. Then of course there is the classic coffee cake, which can only be improved with the addition of apples, pears, or berries and perhaps a bit of lemon or orange zest. Also remember that fruit makes an excellent topping for just about every type of cake including lemon, angel food, chocolate, vanilla, or spice. Mix it up!
Bread is ubiquitous in the American diet because it’s versatile. Incredibly versatile in fact. Whip up some sweet bread like shortcake, banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, or carrot bread. For dinner, make a rustic loaf bread flavored with fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme along with garlic or roasted red peppers. Flatbread makes an amazing meal or snack loaded with sweet peppers, sea salt, and your other favorite veggies. Also cook up some savory options like a veggie pull-apart bread or a popover with sun-dried tomatoes. If you're mouth is watering for something right now, try this shortcut to get sun-dried tomatoes even without the summer sun.
The bread category encompasses many other options such as herb or berry-infused scones that work as a stand-alone treat or excellent brunch addition. Also throw some herbs into your pizza crust for a palate pleasing spin on the basic white crust. Muffins and biscuits are both exceptionally adaptable for both sweet and savory flavors from your garden. Plus, you can kick your cornbread up a notch with jalapenos or sweeten it with fresh corn and mixed herbs.
Don’t forget about breakfast while planning how to liquidate your garden harvest. Quiche is the perfect opportunity to stuff just about anything into a morning pie. Fall feasts can’t get any better than that. The base of a quiche is eggs, but you can include mushrooms, squash, peppers, onion, garlic, zucchini, spinach, basil, parsley, thyme, peas, broccoli or any combination you have on hand. Make use of those prolific tomatoes with fresh salsa on top.
To make your harvest last into the dark cold days of winter, spend some extra time in the the kitchen now. Bake up a storm on a crisp fall afternoon and freeze for a January morning. Wrap breads and doughs well with plastic and then foil. Store inside a freezer bag or freezer container.
Use your dehydrator to save the blueberries from summer. Take them backpacking, add them to muffin mix and cakes, or rehydrate with your oatmeal.
If your freezer is full, you can use your canning jars for baked goods too. Bake apple, pear, or plum cake in jars in the oven and seal for use later in the year.
Just because the seasons are changing doesn’t mean the remnants of your garden harvest have to head for the composter. With the proper inspiration you can continue to enjoy your produce in sweet and savory dishes alike.