By Katie Stagliano
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” -- Albert Einstein
Occasionally, gardeners face the wonderful problem of an abundance of a particular fruit or vegetable. This is an issue we love to have at Katie’s Krops. The more we grow, the more we are able to donate to families in need.
There are items, however, that we simply cannot donate. So what do you do with an abundance of basil, okra that is past peak, gourds you grew by accident, or flowers growing around the vegetables you harvested? Dry the extra herbs and make dips and dressing mixes. Make angel ornaments with the okra pods. Turn the gourds into birdhouses. Press and dry flowers for use in note cards.
My father has always told my brother and me that nothing should go to waste, that there are people less fortunate than us, and that we should take only what we need and make everything count. His words inspired me to donate my 40-pound cabbage to a soup kitchen, where it helped to feed 275 people. His words have also inspired me to avoid waste in the gardens and to get creative.
Does anyone else have rosemary that seems to grow from a tiny seedling to a huge bush overnight? Or basil that pops up in the crevices in the patio? Well, if these delicious herbs are taking over your backyard, I have just the solution for you to try. All you have to do is dry the herbs and get to work using these tasty plants.
We had an amazing onion growing season. Honestly, it was the first time we attempted to grow onions, and the results were amazing. There were more onions than we, or any soup kitchen, could ever need! I decided to leave some in the ground a little longer than I should have. When it came time to harvest, some were not as pretty as I would have liked. They had a few spots of rot. Rather than tossing them into the compost bin, however, we cut away the bad spots and toasted up the remainder by chopping up the onion, placing it on a cookie sheet, and baking it on a nonstick cookie sheet at 300 degrees until golden brown.
When basil and parsley took over our backyard, it was time to snip, hang, and dry. Using the dried onions and herbs, we got creative and made a new favorite: Ranch Dip Mix/Salad Dressing. The recipe is simple, and the mix makes a wonderful gift.
Ranch Dip Mix/Salad Dressing
- 1 cup dried parsley
- 3 tablespoons dried dill
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 2 tablespoons garlic dried and minced
- 1/4 cup dried diced onions
- 1-1/2 tablespoons pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
To make Ranch Dip, we combined 2 to 3 tablespoons dry mix with 8 ounces of sour cream. To make Salad Dressing, we combined 2 to 3 tablespoons dry mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup buttermilk. For both, stir well and chill for an hour.
Okra is a favorite southern treat and a staple in our gardens. These delicious green vegetables can grow abundantly and quickly. Our okra plants often fall over because they weigh too much and are too full of vegetables. On occasion, the pods become too large and too tough and start to turn. What can you create from these past-their-peak pods? Okra angels from the garden.
Gourds are very pretty, but sadly are not edible. No fear. If you grew gourds, I have the perfect use for them! Gourd birdhouses! They’re great for the birds -- and even better for the eyes. To make a gourd birdhouse, just follow these simple steps.
What other clever methods do we use? Our big beautiful sunflowers get repurposed to birdseed after we cut off the large heads and place them in the trees. We press the tiny dry flowers into decorative note cards. Extra herbs are great for making herbal soaps.
The next time I’m tempted to throw away a vegetable, herb, or even a flower, I’ll stop and get creative. I’ll find a way to use it for a craft or tasty treat! I hope you will too, because nothing should go to waste, especially when you have these fun ideas to try!