The inconvenient reality about the home vegetable garden is that everything seems to ripen at once.
One day you're hankering for that first sweet homegrown tomato, and the next day your kitchen is overflowing with more tomatoes than you, your family and all your friends and neighbors know what to do with.
What to do? Put up the bounty the way your grandmother did, by canning, pickling, freezing and drying them so that they will last until you're ready to eat them.
People think of canning as a messy, all-day affair, the kitchen strewn with sticky pots and pans. It can take some time, but it doesn't have to be all-consuming.
Instead of going through the elaborate water-bath process, you can make simple "refrigerator" pickles that will keep for up to a month.
That's usually enough time for you to consume all those excess veggies, made crispy, sweet and sour by a high-acid bath of vinegar, sugar and salt.
"To make refrigerator pickles, all you need to do is slice them, salt them, pour the liquid over them and refrigerate," said John Toulze, chef/partner of the Girl and the Fig, Estate and Fig Cafe restaurants in the Sonoma Valley.
The sky's the limit when it comes to refrigerator pickling. Everything from carrots and cauliflower to onions and shallots can be pickled and preserved.
Knowing how to make refrigerator pickles really comes in handy when you're suddenly inundated with a bumper crop of produce in the late summer and early fall.
"What goes crazy in the peak of the season?" Toulze asked. "Cucumbers, beans and squash ... you don't get overwhelmed if you do refrigerator pickles."
As one of the few local chefs who also wears the straw hat of a farmer, Toulze sharecrops a plot of vegetables at Imagery Estate Winery in Glen Ellen.
Produce recently harvested at the 2.5-acre garden included baby carrots, squash and beans. Toulze and his crew quickly transformed them into Coriander Carrots, Sweet and Sour Squash and Dilly Beans — all refrigerator pickles — to use on antipasti and charcuterie plates at his restaurants.
In exchange for farming the land, Toulze also cans a line of Sharecropper pickles that he gives back to the landowners, Imagery Estate and Benziger Family Winery, for sale in both tasting rooms.
One of the tips when pickling any vegetable is to make sure the veggies are sliced and diced into similar shapes and sizes, Touze said.
You should also make sure you salt the watery cucumbers first to release the moisture, ensuring that the pickles turn out crispy and flavorful.
If you really want to make it easy on yourself, The Girl & The Fig offers a trio of three pickling spices, under the Sonoma Valley Sharecropper label, that come with simple instructions.
The pickling spices, sold at all three restaurants as well as through Williams-Sonoma stores nationwide, come in three flavors: Blanc for white vegetables like turnips and white radishes, Vert for green vegetables like zucchini and beans, and Colour for red and orange vegetables, such as beets and peppers.
"The Vert is sweeter and a little sour," Toulze said. "The Colour is sweeter and a little spicy."
Once you've got your pickled vegetables neatly tucked away in the fridge, there are endless ways to consume them.