“September gardens are grief and glory rolled into one last hurrah before autumn winds blow in.”
— Layla Morgan Wilde
Can it be? September has come already? Where did the spring and summer go so quickly?
Though we know it is September, we at Master Gardeners are not giving so much thought to autumn winds blowing in. Instead, we are wondering how to use all this wonderful harvested produce. September is a big harvest month, and we suspect you are out there picking, big time.
Why do we have so much? Did we over-plant or just have a fabulous year? Or maybe many of you purposely planted more to share. How great is that?
There are so many possibilities to use freshly harvested fruits and vegetables on your menu, from salads to main dishes and dessert. But how many fresh tomatoes can you eat? And how creative can you be using those peppers? More sliced cucumbers for dinner?
If any of those complaints sounds familiar, why not find ways of sharing the fresh produce? Start by researching some new recipes and asking others. Next, think about trading what you have with people who are growing something different. They might have grown tired of what they grew, too.
Consider your neighbors. Some gardeners put fresh produce in a box at the curb and put a sign by it letting neighbors know it’s free. Others actually deliver to those who do not get out easily, or are unable to grow veggies.
And, of course, there is such need at our local food banks and the mission for homegrown food. Many times, customers get dry goods such as beans and rice at food banks, but salad from your garden would be so appreciated.
September is also the time to store food for winter. What better way to save the summer than to freeze, can or dry some of your own homegrown crops? There are many sources for recipes, but we recommend the Yakima County Master Food Preservers, who can be reached at 509-574-1604. They will guide you with up-to-the-minute safe ways to preserve for your family.
Try something new this year. Freeze some stuffed peppers or make homemade salsa. Cook up your own spaghetti sauce with those extra tomatoes. Make dill or sweet pickles from all the cucumbers. Freeze corn and stir up some relish for the kids’ hot dogs.
Perhaps the biggest message we have for you today is to not waste food you have worked hard to grow. Find a way to get it to people who need it. This might take some research on your part.
We have been reading about food scarcity but also that more that 40 percent of the food grown commercially is dumped before we ever see it, often because of blemishes or because it is the wrong size or shape. We know that you will eat a crooked cucumber or a misshapen carrot from your garden, but it seems that when we are at the grocery store we want produce to be perfect.
Some people and agencies are taking on this problem and encouraging food companies to tag less-than-perfect produce as “ugly” and sell at a reduced price. There are also projects going on in the world to get this food to those who need it by actually preparing meals and serving those on the street.
This is all good news, and you can be part of the good news if only in a tiny way.
So enjoy all the bounty of your harvest, share with others or preserve the taste of summer to enjoy during the cold winter months.
• The WSU Extension Master Gardener Program is an organization of trained volunteers dedicated to horticulture and community service. The Master Gardener Walk-In Diagnostic Clinic operates from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Direct questions about gardening, landscaping or this program to the Master Gardener Clinic at 509-574-1604, or leave samples for identification at the WSU Extension office. Leave a message with your name, phone number, email address and the nature of your problem or question. You can also email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and include pictures, if you have them. A member of the Master Gardener Clinic team will check voicemails and emails and reply as soon as possible. The WSU Extension office is at 2403 S. 18th St., Suite 100, in Union Gap. Call 509-574-1600. New volunteers are welcome.