Gardening is a lot of work, and throwing any part of the harvest away can feel excruciating. Learning the ways to use more of our harvested produce will put more food on the shelf and eliminate food waste in the kitchen.
Love finding ways to use up every bit of what you harvest from the garden you work so hard on each season? I get you! For some reason, I feel a little bit stingy feeding the compost pile unless I can get one more use out of my precious produce!
It has always seemed like such a waste to throw away parts of the plant if they can be used. Over the years I’ve gathered a few tried and true no waste ideas.
When I began composting, I thought I had found my answer to less waste—and I did. However, learning that there were things I could do with fruit, vegetable and herb scraps before they go into the compost absolutely revolutionized my thinking.
Eliminating Garden Food Waste
I’ve mastered this with a few of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs that I grow. These methods will also work with store-bought produce. Organic produce is always best and can be used to its fullest, but non-organic will give the same results. Just remember that your end product will have the pesticides in it.
Your carrot harvest is one of the most versatile harvests that you will ever have. Using your carrots root to stalk is easy when it comes to carrots! They can be eaten fresh with dips, sautéed into stir fry, steamed or boiled as a side dish, canned or dehydrated for soups or sides, frozen in shreds for future carrot cakes, fed whole or in slices to our livestock, and used in so many other ways.
At carrot harvesting time, make sure to save the carrot tops to feed to your livestock, or even to use in your family’s salad. High in calcium, carrot greens should be fed sparingly to livestock that are suffering urinary issues. It is said that carrot greens have antiseptic and diuretic properties, which opens up a whole new way of thinking about this root vegetable. Carrot greens can be dehydrated and used in place of parsley in your recipes. Used as an herb, it adds a slightly carroty flavor to your dishes without being overpowering.
Dehydrating Carrot Greens
After removing greens from your carrots, sift through and remove all dead leaves from the bunch. Submerge your carrot greens in a sink full of water and swish around. Allow to sit in water for a few minutes to allow any dirt to sink to the bottom. Remove your greens, gently squeezing excess water out. Place them on a clean kitchen towel and pat as much water out of the greens as you can. Separate small sprigs and leaves from larger stems and layer as flat as you can on your dehydrator trays. Dry at 95 degrees until dry and crumbly.
Strawberries are fantastic, as we all know, and flavorful, summer strawberries are one fruit we can’t get enough of. Eat your bounty of strawberries fresh, add them to salads, preserve in jams, or dehydrate in slices or lovely fruit leather. There really are endless choices as to all the ways that we can enjoy summer strawberries!
In addition to those ways that you can enjoy this fantastic fruit, did you know that there is a way of using every part of the fruit? Before you send your strawberry tops off to your compost pile, there is a wonderful stop that they can make along the way.
Strawberries can be macerated with sugar and lemon and made into a fantastic strawberry syrup. I do this often during the summer and use the syrup to flavor my kombucha or out family’s homemade lemonade. Another way I use strawberry tops is to feed them as a treat to my most grateful chickens, or in this nutritious herb salad for my rabbits.
Kale, Swiss Chard, Fennel and Strawberry Salad
NOTES: Kale, chard and fennel are vegetables that should make up 75% of your rabbit’s fresh portion of food each day. It is recommended to feed 1 packed cup for every 2 pounds of your rabbit’s body weight per day. This recipe will make just over 1.25 cup of vegetables, so you could adjust the amounts of kale, chard, and fennel up if you have a heavier rabbit, however, do not adjust the amount of strawberries up as strawberries are a high sugar fruit and should only be eaten in small quantities as an occasional treat.
½ cup kale (any variety)
½ cup swiss chard (high in oxalic acid)
¼ cup diced fennel (tops or base are fine)
2 tbsp strawberry tops
Chop all leaves and fennel into bite size pieces. Toss together, and feed to your rabbits immediately, or refrigerate and feed within a few hours. (Do not allow salad to wilt or your rabbits may not eat it.)
Prolific mint doesn’t take too many seasons to find its home anywhere in your garden that it wants to. So naturally, if allowed to grow, we will have a lot of it. Thankfully, mint is a fantastic herb with both culinary uses and medicinal qualities. This makes it quite a versatile plant to have an abundance of on hand. Use mint to make hot or iced tea using dried or fresh leaves. Make syrups to flavor your drinks or jellies to assist your lamb dishes. Try using it as a fly, mite, and vermin deterrent. The raw leaves can be chewed on to freshen your breath.
After you strip your stems from all of the ‘perfect’ leaves, use the remaining leaves and stems to line your rabbit’s hutch tray. This will help keep flies away from your rabbit’s hindquarters, aiding in preventing fly strike. Line your chickens’ nesting boxes to keep mites out of the area where they lay their eggs, and on the floor of the coop to deter other pests. Strip all of the leaves of the stems to make these natural and healthy toys for your non-lactating rabbits.
Mint Sprig Chewable Rabbit Toys
Try this no waste idea for these cool toys for your rabbit! Put all of your stems into the water to wash them off. Let them dry in your dehydrator or air dry. Bundle dry stems with short pieces of cotton yarn (trim off any long ends before you give them to bunny). More DIY ideas for rabbit toys.
Peaches are so delicious in so many different ways! This year was the first that we got plenty of peaches from our tree, so I needed some ideas for using them all up. Here are some ideas that I’ve used in the past (with store-bought produce), and that I used this year.
- Eat raw
- Can whole or halved (water bath)
- Jams, syrups, preserves, pickles, and other canned items
- Dehydrated into fruit leathers
- BBQ sauce — For real! And it’s so good! I used this recipe from Ball
Pits and Skins
For our family, tomatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables (or fruits, if you’re a stickler) we grow in our home garden. My favorites that I keep coming back to are San Marzano (a paste tomato–great for canning), and Brandywine (a beefsteak tomato–great for slicing). Here’s what we do with all of our tomatoes each year.
- Water bath canned whole or diced, or sauce (show mine)
- Dehydrated for the shelf (show mine)
- Frozen for later canning, or even just later use (my article)
- Make my favorite Garden Veggie Sandwich
Cores and Skins
- Tomato powder – can be made into juice, sauce or paste (show mine)
Onions are fun because you can just harvest the tops for garnish and flavoring your dishes, which reduces waste if you don’t need the bulb. However, if you do need the bulb, you can replant the root side to grow another onion! Here are some more ways you can use up your onions.
- preserve them (here’s an article with 5 ways!)
- dry, grind and use them in homemade spice blends
- keep some slices on hand for a homemade bug bite treatment
Peels and Ends
- replant the ends and grow more onions! (works with green and bulb onions)
- freeze the skins and scraps to flavor bone broth
Leafy greens are so good for us! Packed with vitamins and minerals that we need, they are the perfect addition to any meal (or smoothie) to give us those extra nutrients without all the extra calories! Here’s some ways you can use the whole plant!
- green powder to use in smoothies
- kale chips
- regrow a head of lettuce with the end
- “pick as you go” – leave it in the ground and just pick outer leaves so it remains super fresh!
If you are lucky enough to get a bounty of apples every year, you’ve got great opportunity for filling your shelves! Apples are hugely versatile and pretty much every part can be used for something!
- apple pie filling
- fruit leather
- preserve as apple butter
- eat raw
- dehydrate them in rings for snacks
Cores and Skins
- Make apple cider vinegar