Products made and/or grown and harvested by New England gardeners make great gifts for friends and family members. The money spent on these products stays local and supports the local economy in addition to supporting your area’s gardeners, farms and growers. Roadside farm stands, indoor farmer’s markets, craft fairs and country stores are all great places to look for local garden products and gifts. New England garden products also make great fillers for themed gift baskets. Without further adieu, here are my picks for the top ten local products that are great gifts for and from the garden.
1. Local Honey
Look for products from local apiaries such as native honey—raw or processed—and natural beeswax salves, lip balms, creams and candles. Honey is known for it’s high nutrient content and its antimicrobial properties. It’s a natural sweetener, perfect for tea and spreading on toast. Consider a filling a gift basket with an assortment of local honey. Honey connoisseurs can often distinguish the source of the pollen used to make the honey— for example, wildflower honey is said to taste and smell different than blueberry pollinated honey. A sweet little gift basket with a few honey varieties, a honey dipper, a bee shaped beeswax candle, and beeswax lip balm or hand cream will appeal to most all adult gardeners.
NOTE: The FDA recommends that babies under the age of one year should not consume honey or honey products.
2. Maple Products
There’s nothing sweeter than the gift of New England tapped maple syrup or maple sugar. A gift basket containing gourmet pancake and waffle mixes and a sampling of different grades of maple syrup—light, medium and dark ambers in grade A or grade B—is sure to please those who enjoy the sweet, concentrated flavor that only pure maple syrup can deliver. Maple syrup keeps indefinitely, so this sweet gift can be enjoyed for months to come.
NOTE ON SYRUP GRADES: Grade A syrups are made earlier in the season than grade B. Dark amber syrup is full bodied , medium amber syrup has a smoother flavor and light amber has a delicate flavor.
3. Pickled Products
Dill, mustard, and bread and butter pickles; pickled onions; pickled or “dilly” green beans; and pickled local farm fresh eggs. A small wooden crate filled with these preserved foods is a great gift for people who have a camp, seasonal cottage or second home. With these home-style side dish favorites in the pantry, summer is never far away.
4. Jams and Jellies
Look for traditional New England favorites such as Wild Blueberry, Red-Raspberry, Blackberry and Strawberry-Rhubarb. Tied with a festive bow, jams and jellies always make fun hostess gifts. Recipients will appreciate enjoying them with brunch or afternoon tea accompanied by a light snack. Imagine cozying up to the fireplace with hot tea and toast and jam.
5. Condiments and Pie Fillings
Think chutney, apple butter, maple butter, cranberry sauce, relishes, canned peaches and mincemeat. These products are perfect for gardeners who love to cook and bake. Preserved goods such as mincemeat is perfect in a pinch to whip up a last minute pie. Condiments such as cranberry sauce or relish make regular chicken and burgers a little more gourmet.
Dried and packaged locally-grown herbs such as dill, thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, and cilantro look great packaged with recipe cards for dips and spreads made with dried herbs. A small locally crafted pottery bowl and spreading spoon will complete a fun and useful gift package.
7. Natural Homemade Bath and Beauty Products from the Garden
Pamper your favorite female friend with herbal and goat milk soaps, masks, body washes, and lavender sachets. For the man in your life, woodsy and pine scented soaps and natural aftershaves made with local ingredients are available. Pick and choose a combination for an individual or couple gift basket.
A locally crafted birdhouse made from wood or a homegrown gourd will surely delight gardeners this holiday season. Look for a bird house that resemble the gardener’s own house or interest, or one that is painted with the gardener’s favorite flower or color.
Apple cider, cranberry juice, wine from local vineyards and locally micro-brewed beer make a great offering at holiday parties and gatherings. Serving a local beverage is a refreshing way to say Merry Christmas to guests.
10. Garden Share
The recipient of this gift will surely think of you all year long. When you purchase a share, it’s usually weekly or bi-weekly and fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables are delivered to a common pick up location at the same time each week. An example of a delivery may include local apples, a bag of potatoes, squash and a small jar of local honey. A description of where your food was grown is usually included with the delivery. This is a neat idea for people who love to garden but may not be able to grow their own food anymore. It is also a great gift for families.