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Gifts From The Garden

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of sharing your garden’s bounty. Plan now for holiday giving.

By Jan Wiese-Fales | Photos By ©iStock.com / LanceDwight / SwellPhotography

As you gather in the last of the summer veggies and harvest fall favorites from your garden, consider these homegrown ideas for holiday gifts sure to please friends and family.

Preserved Treasures

Set aside your best home-canned jellies, jams and pickles to include in gift baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Dehydrated vegetables make great gifts as ingredients for winter fare, such as soups, casseroles, pizzas and meatloaves. Dry them in bite-size pieces on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets at your oven’s lowest temperature. Add a note telling recipients that the veggies can be rehydrated in a small amount of boiling water before adding them to a favorite recipe.

Gifts That Grow

As flowers and vegetable plants near the end of their productive lives, gather seed from your favorites to share as gifts. Take a photo of the plants’ blooms or fruits to use on small premade envelopes. Search for “seed envelope template” at www.homegrownfun.com for a free downloadable design you can customize. 

Heirloom tomato seeds make a great gift.

Beans, both edible and decorative, are easy seeds to save and share. For any variety, leave a few pods on the plant until they are leathery, then harvest them, shell out the beans, and place them on a flat surface until you package them. Save tomato seeds from your best ripe tomato by placing the seeds and pulp in a small dish. Cover with water, and let stand for four days. Skim off fermentation and the unviable seeds that have floated to the top. Rinse the remaining seeds, and spread them on a coffee filter to dry. Pepper seeds are ready to save when a pepper is ripe. Just spread them out to briefly dry. (Remember: Hybrid seeds may not yield the same plant as the one from which they came.)

In the case of annual flowers such as zinnias, marigolds and bachelor’s buttons, gather spent flower heads, split them open to reveal their seeds, and spread them out for a short time to dry. Annual cleomes form multiple long seedpods along their stems that, once dry, will release seeds into your hand or a bag. Columbine and poppy plants hold their seeds aloft in seedpods that can be shaken into a bag once mature.

Value-Added Herbal Gifts

Harvest and spread mint leaves to dry for use as a stomach-soothing herbal tea. Package the dried leaves, and pair them with a tea ball. Dried catnip makes a great gift for cat lovers; give it either loose in a jar or stuffed into a home-sewn felt mouse or other cat toy.

Try using a grapevine wreath to share an array of dried herbs for culinary use, that can double as kitchen décor. Affix fresh herb bundles—closely spaced to compensate for shrinkage—to the wreath with wire, and hang the wreath in a well-ventilated place to dry. Garlic cloves, rose hips and sprigs of dried lavender add visual interest.

Flavored vinegars make an easy and delicious gift. Place three to four sprigs of fresh rosemary, tarragon, dill, basil or thyme in a pint-size decorative bottle. Fill it with vinegar, cork it or cap it, and let it sit for two weeks in a dark place before gifting.