We’re finally in the part of summer where we can start seeing some returns on the hard work we’ve put into our gardens! All my summer favorites are starting to come in, and fast! The key to not falling behind a bountiful harvest is to start preserving now! 

I used to wait until August, when I had huge harvests every night, to start preserving. But with so many varieties coming in strong at the same time, I quickly got overwhelmed and fell short of my preservation goals. Since then I’ve learned, you’ve got to start early stay ahead

Here are five tips to maximize your garden harvests: 

Schedule a harvest day. My weekly routine is to harvest on Sundays. Once I’ve harvested, I immediately separate out what we’re going to enjoy fresh throughout the week, what I’m going to preserve, and what I’m going to share with friends and neighbors. Dedicating this one hour a week helps avoid overwhelm, and I have a lot less fresh produce going to waste.

Start preserving herbs in July. As you prune your rosemary, dill and other herbs in order to get big, bushy plants, go ahead and dry or vacuum seal and freeze the clippings! It’s great to preserve some early herbs individually for winter cooking, or dry them for teas and spices, especially since later in the season when you have a bigger harvest, you’ll be focused on making pestos, sauces, and broths. Plus you have the added bonus of having a back-up in case Mother Nature throws you a curveball; there were several years I lost all my basil to downy mildew and I was happy I had some from earlier in the season in my freezer!

Zucchini comes in hot when it’s ready, so if you’re drowning in squash and you can’t possibly think of another way to cook them, try baking zucchini breads! You can bake and freeze them now, and pull them out at a later date to share with guests or enjoy with your morning cup of coffee.

Cauliflower is a great crop to “rice” and freeze for later.  By ricing, you can skip the steps of par-boiling and blanching which is usually required before freezing vegetables. Talk about easy!

You can pickle more than just cucumbers! Pickling provides you with a different way to enjoy veggies like radishes, onions, beans, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, beets, jalapenos, asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, fennel, (and even fruits like peaches and cherries!). There are two ways to pickle: canned pickles, or refrigerator pickles. Refrigerator pickles are quick, easy, and keep the crunch of a fresh veggie, but they only last about a month, while traditionally canned pickles can last much longer. Think how fun it would be to pull some garden pickles out of your pantry to add to a holiday charcuterie board!