Compost Site Diving: From Their Yard to My Table

Unspoiled Spoils

At this time of year, people from our town bring the potted outdoor plants from their yards and patios, along with the last lawn clippings and leaves to the village composting site. I was visiting with one of my friends the other day, and she mentioned all of the flowers she had picked up at this local composting site the day before.  She also mentioned all the vegetables that had been dumped as well: tomatoes, peppers, kohlrabi, and winter squash!

My ears perked up at this because I’ve had a terrible vegetable gardening year between building new beds, drought, and taking care of elderly parents. I was just lamenting the lack of tomatoes and going into the winter without having canned any salsa. I asked my husband if he would drive out to compost site with me to check out all of the scorned produce. (He was more than happy to oblige because it is also a good place to pick up brick and stone. People are allowed to dump clean fill out there as well. He plans to build a bigger storage shed and needed some bricks to build piers for the foundation.)

As soon as we arrived, I spotted the tomatoes. We had brought along some boxes and an empty peach case with a waxed interior. I began filling it with tomatoes from vines that had been pulled from the ground and dumped whole in a big pile. We ended up with a case of tomatoes —25 or 30 pounds—at various stages of ripeness. Some will ripen within the week, while others will ripen around Thanksgiving—late November. Properly stored, these tomatoes may last until Christmas!

The next pile was entirely kohlrabi. I picked out five giant purple specimens and one green one. I’m not afraid of oversize bulbs because today’s cultivars don’t get pithy when they get large. Kohlrabi freezes well. I like to use it in vegetable soup in place of cabbage. Although I have grown a good amount for eating and freezing this season, more is welcome because it keeps for a long time in the deep freeze.

I found some nice plum and cherry tomatoes in another pile. These are good on salads and for drying, although we will probably eat them fresh. I snapped off the ripening fruit in sprays and will allow them to ripen on the vine. (You pay more for that in grocery stores!)  I also gleaned some green peppers from this pile. Peppers have a habit of hiding among the leaves. I found a handful. Another pile had tons of hot peppers, but they had been out a little too long and had wilted. (Someone also had run over them, making them a total loss. What a waste!)

There were lots of geraniums! I picked out three nice plants that had been pulled out leaving their roots bare. I brought them home, knocked the extra soil off their roots, and bagged them up in paper shopping sacks. The greens will die back and the plants will go dormant. I will pot them up in January or February when they once again begin to show signs of life.

We spent some time salvaging bricks before heading home. On the way out, I noticed some new piles of freshly dumped “yard waste.” (A man in a pickup truck had just driven away.) I picked up a few more tomatoes, and then my husband noticed butternut squash (his favorite). We picked up five big unblemished squash—we had been buying them six for $5 (a good value, but FREE is always better)!

We will be back next week when people begin to off load all the pumpkins, squash, and straw bales they have been using for fall yard decorations. I need some straw to mulch my strawberries and bed my chicken coop and yard. The girls enjoy eating pumpkin (a good source of vitamin A and beta carotene). We humans also enjoy eating the pie pumpkins in soup and desserts.

If you have a composting site in your area, don’t be shy. Visit and glean! There is no point in wasting good food. Begonia

P.S. We went back to the site yesterday for more brick and found that someone had dumped a bunch of plants, including a young lilac bush with the nursery tags still on it. (Go figure.) I planted it in the back 40 (feet) under the willow.

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