15 Clever Ways to Reduce Food Waste & Get More From Your Garden

Don’t toss that! The USDA estimates that a staggering 30-40% of food in the United States is wasted. While you’re probably already more sensitive about using the produce out of your own garden we went ahead an compiled a list of ways you can reduce your food waste and make the most of your harvest.

Save Scraps to Make Broth

Many vegetable scraps can be turned into delicious vegetable broth. Save scraps like carrot ends and peelings, celery ends and leaves, onions ends and skins, broccoli leaves and stalks, potato peels, and more. If your not going to use them right away they can be collected in a container in the freezer.

Eat your Jack O’ Lantern

Sadly most jack o’ lanterns end up in the landfill which is an enormous waste of nutritious food. This year try to use your jack o’ lantern before it goes bad. The seeds can be baked for a delicious snack, the “guts” can be added to broth, and the shell can be baked and turned into delicious recipes like pumpkin pie, pumpkin waffles, or even pumpkin cinnamon rolls.

DIY Pumpkin Puree & Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Leave the Skin on Cucumbers, Apples, and Potatoes

The skin on cucumbers, apples, and potatoes is actually quite good for you. They’re full of vitamins and nutrients and tasty too. Try using these without peeling them first.

Make Corn Cob Jelly

Tennessee Red Cob Dent Corn

It may sound odd but corn cob jelly is actually really good and certainly makes good use of an otherwise waste product.

Eat Your Beet Greens

Beet greens are just as tasty as other greens and they come free with a beet! Don’t let them go to waste.

Pickle Your Rinds

Squash, pumpkin, and melon rinds can all be pickled. Just like corn cob jelly, pickled rind recipes used to be very common but fell out of use in modern cooking. They may sound a little odd at first but they’re actually pretty good.

Save Your Tomato Skins When Canning

Next time your canning tomatoes or making sauce set the tomato skins aside instead of in the compost. These can be dehydrated and powdered to be used in soups and stews. This tomato powder is wonderful for adding flavor and thickening.

Eat Your Broccoli Stems

The stems are just as good as the florets! They also contains slightly more calcium, iron, and vitamin C than the florets. If you really dislike them you can use them for stock or try searching for broccoli stem recipes.

Make Fabric Dye

From cabbage scraps to black bean water there’s many ways to dye fabric with just food waste!

Planning a Dye Garden: 15 Plants to Grow

Make Fruit Vinegar

Making your own vinegar is actually really easy and can be done with all fruit scraps like peels and cores after a canning or juice making day.

Use Soft Fruit in Smoothies or Baking

Fruit that’s soft but isn’t truly bad can still be delicious in smoothies or baked goods.

Toss Soft Veggies in Soups

Don’t throw out vegetables that aren’t truly bad. Use up produce like soft carrots and potatoes, limp celery, and wilted greens in homemade soups like this Vegetarian Tortilla Soup.

Dehydrate or Can Your Food Rather than Freeze It

While freezing garden produce is an easy way to preserve your harvest for winter it does come with one major downfall, the freezer requires constant electricity. If you live in an area that experiences a lot of storms and power outages it may be worth putting up your harvest in other ways. Canning and dehydrating food is a great way to ensure it stays good.

Feed Produce to Animals

If you truly can’t eat something consider animals. Backyard chickens eat a lot of scraps as do pigs. If you don’t have any yourself talk to your local animal rescue or farmer. They might be interested in produce scraps or even that old jack o’ lantern!


Produce scraps should never go to the landfill. Composting creates wonderful soil for your garden and keeps produce out of the landfill which releases methane.

Reducing food waste is so important. It helps the environment and your wallet. Let us know if you try any of these tips and how it works out.

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Seed Saving from Biennial Crops

Generally when people think of seed saving they think about annual crops like corn, tomatoes, and beans which all produce seed in the fall or at the end of the growing season. While these are great crops for beginners to get started with many other common crops are actually biennial.

Seed Saving for Beginners

What’s a Biennial?

Biennial crops are those that require two growing seasons to reach maturity and produce seed. They need to go through a cold period called vernalization in order to produce seed. These include crops like beets, Swiss chard, bulb onions, cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, carrots, turnips, and more.


For most of these crops it is best to plant them in early fall. With the exception of bulb onions, plants that are started in fall rather than spring generally overwinter better.  When planting make sure that you give them enough space. Remember that your plants will be growing beyond the size they normally would for harvest before you’ll be able to collect seed.

You should also consider how much your chosen crop needs to be isolated. For example beets are wind pollinated, can cross with Swiss chard, and need to be isolated by 1/4 mile for home use. For pure seed they need to be isolated by 1/2 mile! Unless you have a large farm it’s probably best to stick with one variety so isolation isn’t as much of an issue. You can find this information for most crops in our growing guides.


Depending on your climate you may have different options for overwintering these crops. In southern zones it’s possible to overwinter some of these crops right in the ground especially if you have a hoop house, low tunnel, or cold frame set up over them. They should also be mulched in heavily to keep the soil temperature warmer. Many biennial crops can survive temperatures into the 20°Fs.

If you live in a colder climate where you cannot overwinter your crop in the ground it is still possible to save your own seed. Before the the ground freezes pull the plants up, being careful with the roots, and store them in moist peat moss, shredded newspaper, sawdust, or sand in a fridge or root cellar the way you would store carrots and beets for winter eating. Leave space between each plant so they aren’t touching each other. In storage you want to keep your plants cold but still above freezing. The high 30s are ideal. Onions however prefer less moisture and warmer temperatures (storage temperatures in the low 50°Fs).

Before pulling them up you can let them get frosted a few times. This will encourage them to go dormant. If they don’t go through a cold period they won’t be triggered to produce seed when you replant them in the spring. You can replant as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.

Collecting Seed

During their second growing season biennial plants will flower and go to seed. For most crops this seed should be collected when it’s dry and brown. Some crops may have seeds on the same plant maturing at different rates so you may need to harvest your seeds while some are still green. Do no keep any seeds that didn’t fully mature and are green.

While there is a bit more involved in seed saving from biennial crops it’s still not a difficult skill to learn. If you’d like to help save your favorite heirloom variety or adapt a crop to your specific climate you  might consider trying your hand at seed saving.

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Fresh Food in Winter

As the leaves begin to change colors each fall I’m relieved by the decrease in garden chores but I’m also saddened the thought of nothing but store-bought or preserved produce. Thankfully there are a few ways to keep the fresh, local food on your table through the winter.

Cold frames, low tunnels, hoop houses, and more.

One of the best ways to enjoy fresh food from your garden during the winter is to utilize a season extender. You can use a hoop house, low tunnels, a green house, or cold frames in order to buffer your crops from winter lows. Cold hardy crops like pan choi, kale, arugula, spinach, radishes, turnips, and beets can be planted in these during the fall so that you can enjoy harvest through the winter.  Note that even if your garden is protected from low temperatures lack of daylight during the winter still hamper plant growth. To ensure good winter harvests plan ahead and plant in the fall or late summer while there’s still plenty of light.


In the ground.

Some late plantings of root crops like carrots, beets, and even potatoes can be left in the ground in some southern states. Mulch them heavily with a thick layer of leaves, straw, or hay and dig them as you need them.

In the kitchen.

Garlic and onion bulbs can both be easily grown in large enough quantities to feed a family for a year. They store well at room temperature so they can be kept right in the kitchen. Bulb onions and soft neck garlic can be braided for store helping to save space and look lovely hanging in the kitchen too.

Root cellars.

There are many crops that can be stored fresh in a root cellar or other cool/cold storage though the winter. These include root crops like beets and carrots as well as cabbage, potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkins. Pumpkins and squash do well in slightly warmer While an actual root cellar is wonderful they’re not absolutely necessary. Check out this post for how to store crops without a root cellar.

Fresh, homegrown produce doesn’t have to be a fleeting summer pleasure. With a little bit of extra planning and hard work you can enjoy fresh, local food year round.

Saving the Past for the Future