We're on the threshold of the holiday gift-giving season, and if you're on a budget, the thought of giving gifts can strike fear into your bank account. Here's the thing: if you have a garden, you have high quality, low-cost goodies just waiting to be turned into presents.
From the Food Garden
Pecans. September through November pecans are dropping to the ground; I took advantage of that the first year I lived in Texas. At the time, I had no money for Christmas gifts for my family in Chicago. However, the place I rented had huge, productive pecan trees and so — with my landlady's blessing — I collected bags of the tasty treats. I sent home decorative jars filled with shelled pecans and boxes of homemade pecan brittle that my family loved. The bulk of the cost was my time shelling the nuts and postage.
Apples and some type of figs. These are just coming into their own in fall, and if you have these trees in your yard, you can turn the fruit into wonderful fruit butters, jams and chutneys.
Vegetables. Okra, eggplant, and peppers are often still producing in early autumn. They make terrific pickles, and who doesn't love a good pickle?
Grapefruits, tangerines, Meyer lemons and blood oranges. The start of the holidays is also great time for citrus. If you’re lucky enough to have these fruits in your yard come December, you’re just a few steps away from Citrus Salt, sweet and sour Tangerine Sugar and Candied Lemon Peels.
Chiles. Add some heat to the holidays! Chile Oil adds zip to everything from dressings to marinades and is a snap to make yourself after you dry the pods.
From the Ornamental Garden
With pressed flowers, bath salts and edible petals, flowers may be enjoyed with the eyes, nose and even taste buds. Here’s how:
Pressed flowers. Nearly any whole flower from your garden can be pressed and used to decorate packages or cards.
Bath salts. Mix dried petals of lavender or rose with Epsom salt, add a drop or two of essential oil, and blend together. Put in a decorative jar and you have just created a lovely gift of bath salts. Or you can find a simple recipe for making soap, and add dried lavender or calendula petals for an added treat. You can also use fragrant rose petals from your garden to make rose oil for the bath.
Edible flowers. These generally refer only to the petals, so you'll need to "gut" the blossom, removing pistils, stamens and any attached sepals. Roses, violets, pansies, and nasturtiums are among the cool weather edible blooms. Sugared violets and pansies (the whole blossoms are edible) make lovely gifts, and look delightful on some appetizers, cake balls and even waffles and pancakes. Fall and winter salads become the talk of the table when topped with the petals of nasturtium (which is peppery) and pansies (minty) and even pea tendrils. Keep in mind (and tell your recipients) fresh petals are fragile and should be used within a few days of receipt. It is best to give these gifts to local folks only, and hand deliver them. Keep in mind a very important tip for edible flowers: Unless you know how they were grown — meaning no pesticides! — do not use them.
Providing gifts to friends and loved ones doesn't have to break the bank when you cultivate gifts from the garden.
Tell me about any gifts you've given or received that came from the garden.