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Published on September 11, 2017

fresh veggies from mic pellman's garden

Share, Donate or Preserve: Making the Most of Your Garden Surplus

Michelle Pellman’s big garden keeps her hopping all summer long, but right now, it’s got her working overtime as she hauls buckets of bounty to work to share with her friends.

She loves every fresh, crispy second of it.

“I’ve raised my own garden for 10 years, and we just expanded it, but I have been helping plant, weed and harvest fresh vegetables from the garden my whole life,” Pellman said, alluding to the big garden she helped with growing up with her parents in Yankton. “It can surprise you how it’ll all come in at once and you’ll have this surplus. But it’s all so good!”

When faced with the overabundance of fresh foods, Pellman does share some at work, sure, but a lot of it she’ll prepare for the winter to come. She uses all the methods – canning, freezing, dehydrating, pickling – and said you cannot beat the flavor.”

“My sons and my husband love our salsa and our spaghetti sauce, and we just keep harvesting and putting things in ice-cream buckets,” she said. “Once we have a few full, we get to work saving everything – preparing the sauces, the jars. It’s a lot of work, but so worth it when you cannot get good fresh stuff in the winter.”

Sauces, Herbs and Recipes

Pellman said finding methods to save the surplus are not too hard to find. She learned many of the methods growing up, with her mother as her teacher. Now she experiments with a few approaches, but is willing to try new approaches, depending on the vegetable that’s overflowing her batch of buckets.

“I do can a lot of stuff and I prefer using pint jars, and it works great for pickles and tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and salsa, too,” she said. “I am really fine-tuning my sauce and salsa recipes – I have a house full of judges on how it turns out, so that’s who I answer to.”

Growing a variety of tomatoes – including Roma, cherry and some meatier ones – allows her to mix and match with the prepared meals. Pellman said she prefers small cucumbers since they have the nicest crunch. In each case, there’s plenty of work, but it can be fun and she gets help.

Try this Simple Garden Salsa Recipe

“Tomatoes are easier to put up in jars than pickles or sauces, but there are so many recipes and tips online. For first-timers, I would tell them to try the mixes available at Hy-Vee – they have a lot of ones you can use for pickling, sauces and salsa if you’re brand-new to doing it,” she said.

Simple Sharing Methods

By the time the cool air of fall settles across her garden in rural Brandon, Pellman will have a full pantry, stocked chockful of good-for-you treats to enjoy during football season and the winter. But she finds additional ways to share – there are only so many shelves in her house.

“We freeze corn – that’s about the only one that works well freezing – other veggies end up mushy,” she said. “But we still have plenty, so we donate fresh produce to our neighbors, family and the Walsh Family Village at Avera. Our church also does a ‘farmers market’ and we take quite a bit there to share with folks.”

When she reflects on the work – from tilling and planting to harvesting and preparing all those little green, red and fresh treats – Pellman comes back to a simple reason for doing it.

“The fresh stuff just tastes so much better,” she said. “Sure, there’s some work involved, but that first bite you take – you realize it was all worth it.”

Try this simple-but-delicious cucumber salsa recipe.

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