What to do with your garden bounty

As days grow shorter and nights grow cooler, many local gardeners have a hard time keeping up with the last surge of produce coming from their gardens. Tomatoes hang heavily from their vines. Zucchinis seem to multiply overnight. “Free, please take me” signs dot front yards while squash and cucumbers tumble out of crates below. Even those who don’t garden know the thrill of snagging amazing deals at local farmers’ markets, only to question what they will do with 40 pounds of apples. This time of year, the common dilemma seems to be how to manage the abundance of delicious gifts our gardens are giving before they go away for the year.

Twyla Hunter, clinical dietitian and certified diabetes educator, and Rachel Gabet, nurse diabetes specialist, Parkview Whitley Hospital, want to help gardeners and community members make the most of the season’s bounty by teaching them easy ways to preserve produce. 

“Some of my fondest childhood memories are walking in the garden with my grandmothers,” Twyla said. “They each had two large gardens and I remember walking in the freshly tilled dirt with them in the spring. I loved the process of planting corn and beans in straight rows and then covering the seeds with my feet. There are a lot of wonderful memories and lessons shared between generations in a family garden.”

Twyla and Rachel also like to scour local farmers’ markets for deals, especially this time of year. “Forty pounds of blueberries may seem ridiculous, but I have a method to my madness,” Rachel shared, with a smile. “Berries can be expensive to eat out of season, but they freeze beautifully and my kids absolutely love them. Now, I’ve got a stash that will keep them happy all winter long.”

This dynamic duo stresses the importance of purchasing produce when it’s fresh and affordable. “It’s always best to buy and eat produce that is in season, both from a financial perspective as well as a taste perspective,” Rachel said. “Any Hoosier can tell you that locally grown watermelon and sweet corn tastes much better in July than what you’ll find in the produce section in January.”

Twyla and Rachel also love to swap recipes, like this lovely soup, that help use up the delicious herbs and vegetables that are so plentiful this time of year.

Rachel’s Simple Sausage Soup*

1 large red onion, diced
2 pounds sausage
1 small or medium eggplant, peeled and diced
5-7 fresh tomatoes, diced, or 2 cans diced tomatoes
1 ½-2 tablespoons dried basil or ½ cup fresh basil
2-3 teaspoons cumin
2-3 teaspoons fennel seed
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
6-8 cups chicken broth
1 package orzo pasta

  1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sausage. Crumble sausage with a fork as it cooks. Drain fat.
  2. Add eggplant, tomatoes, basil, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper to the pot with the sausage and onion mixture.
  3. Stir and cook until the eggplant softens, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil.
  5. Add the pasta and boil for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
  6. Reduce heat to low.
  7. Serve with fresh salad and French bread

Yields 16-18 servings

*This recipe is great for freezing and reheating.


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