At the end of a bountiful harvest, your garden may produce more than you can eat before it spoils. Canning is a time honored past time that has been on the rise recently as homeowners opt for backyard gardens. Pickling is one way to use up those extra vegetables that you can’t eat or give away in time. Consider these vegetables that you can grow, pickle, and enjoy at home.
When we hear the term “pickle” the first thing that most Texans think of is a jar full of crisp, tangy pickles. Cucumbers are usually the star of the show and by far the most popular item that gardeners pickle. The best pickles are made by using cucumbers that come straight out of the garden. If you planted more than a few seeds of cucumbers there will be a point during the summer when you have more cucumbers that you can handle.
Pick cucumbers when they are small to fit well into the canning jar. Smaller cucumbers also usually don’t have a seedy center which can be less desirable when pickling. Cut them into quarters and slice off the blossom end. Fit as many cucumbers into the jar as possible without crushing them. Pour in your pickled vinegar brine and finish in either a hot water bath or store in the fridge for use over the next few weeks.
Peppers are another great vegetable to grow in the garden. Consider choosing a few different varieties that have varying degrees of heat like mild bell peppers or spicy jalapeños. Pick peppers from your garden when they are about the same size as you would purchase them in the store, and cut them into long strips. Mix a few colors of peppers together in each can and pour in the pickling solution. Pickled peppers are great to add to summer meals as well as being stored for future meals in the winter.
These ruby beauties are a bit of an acquired taste but are great candidates for pickling. Grow beets in your garden and choose only firm and unblemished ones for pickling. Take out any soft spots and blanch beets in hot water to easily remove the skins. Cut down beets that are too large into edible pieces. Cloves are usually added to pickled beets as well as sugar, salt, vinegar, and some of the water that was used to blanch the beets. Pickled beets not only had color to a meal but are also a great side dish to bring to a potluck.
There is never any shortage of watermelons in Texas during the summer. Watermelons are frequently grown during hot Texan summers to provide a refreshing treat to families and parties. The hot Texas sun makes watermelons in gardens extra sweet right before they are harvested. With all that sweet delicious watermelon being eaten, there tends to be a lot of watermelon rinds behind. Consider pickling the watermelon rind by cutting it down into bite size portions after the melon is gone. Soak the rind in your favorite brine solution overnight and then pickle the following day. Pickled watermelon rind is a sweet and tangy treat that will feed your family using something that you would normally throw away.
There are so many uses for vegetables that are grown in backyard gardens. If you find yourself overloaded with cucumbers, peppers, beets, or watermelons consider pickling them to preserve them for future use. Use every part of your garden produce by choosing to pickle those vegetables that would easily go to waste. You can, of course, recycle plant parts into your compost for future gardening as well. Storing that taste of summer can be a welcome treat come fall or winter when the growing season has ended.
About the Author
Kristina Phelan is a freelance writer and her parenting column, Mama Bear Moxie, is printed in a few newspapers across the country. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her husband, three kiddos, and too many animals.