Solutions for Food Waste

Harvest Time is a Great Time to Reduce Food Waste

Anyone who’s had the good fortune to harvest a bumper crop from his or her garden knows that sinking feeling when you have a kitchen counter piled high with zucchini and not enough time or energy to concoct interesting ways to eat it all.

By USDA estimates, food waste–the uneaten edible part of food thrown away during production, storage or consumption–amounts to a whopping 30-40% of our total food supply each year in the United States. The economic and environmental costs that go into producing food that’s never eaten is equally troubling. We’re talking wasted water, fuel, manpower, fertilizer and storage.

Fortunately, home gardeners combat many of these food waste concerns when growing intensively on a small scale, composting garden debris, and producing fruits and vegetables steps from our homes.

We consistently challenge ourselves to produce food efficiently and use as much as possible of the harvest so that we play a part in reducing food waste. While harvesting your garden bounty this month, join us on our quest to reduce personal food waste by trying some of our favorite ways to get the most out of freshly picked produce.

Store Produce Properly.

Whether it’s perishable produce like leafy greens and berries that should be refrigerated as soon after harvest as possible or potatoes that last longest when stored in a dark, well-ventilated area, learn about proper storage for your produce and be proactive about using your stored food so you can extend the life of your harvest.

Preserve Food.

You don’t have to be an off-grid homesteader to reap the benefits of saving fresh food to enjoy later. With proper preparation, you can can tomatoes, freeze peaches and leafy greens, air-dry herbs, pickle cucumbers and beans and lacto-ferment peppers for future use.

Eat Inventively.

Those frilly carrot tops make a delicious pesto. Chard’s tough stems hold up well as a pickle relish. Corn cobs simmered in water deliver a sweet broth base for any number of soup recipes. Before you toss or compost the less common parts of your fruits and vegetables, consider interesting ways to use them in your cooking. 

Attend a Local Food Harvest Swap.

Have more tomatoes than you have time to store, prepare and eat? A seasonal food harvest swap could be the answer to your bumper crop dilemma. If you live in the Denver metro area, Mile High Swappers is a great online resource to learn about local food swap events. Even if you can’t find an event nearby, their website includes information on how to set up a food swap in your neighborhood.

Donate to Local Food Pantries.

Most of us are familiar with the importance of donating nonperishable food items to local food pantries, but many food pantries also accept fresh produce. Visit AmpleHarvest’s website to find a food pantry near you that will gratefully take fresh garden goodies off your hands.

Compost What Can’t Be Saved.

Sometimes a squirrel gnaws into your almost-ripe tomatoes, a bird gorges itself at your prized berry bush or your delicate lettuce bolts during a sudden heat wave. While you may not want to consume these damaged foods, you can still compost them at home, reducing landfill waste and setting yourself up with a reusable soil amendment for the next growing season.

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Happy Harvesting.

tomato harvest

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