It’s the height of the growing season. The garden is yielding a bounty of fresh produce each day. How can you possibly make use of it all? That’s the dilemma for beginning and experienced gardeners alike. How does one make the most of your garden’s bounty?
The Evolution of the Process
I began gardening as a teenager with my dad being my tutor. At the time, our garden was pretty basic: peas, corn, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and zucchini. Nothing so “exotic” as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks or Belgian endive. Once I began homesteading in my late 20’s, I expanded my garden horizons and began growing a greater variety of vegetables. At the same time I made it my mission to find ways to utilize what I grew. After all why go to the trouble and work if the vegetables and fruits of your labor go unused and are wasted because of a lack of knowledge regarding their preparation, lack of inspiration on ways to use them or techniques to store them longer term.
My search included ways to not only use the less well known or popular vegetables such as leeks, winter squash and Brussels sprouts but also ways to use the more common vegetables such as beans, cabbage and zucchini. Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows how prolific it is and unless you have a variety of ways to prepare it, your palate quickly becomes bored. Similarly, it’s not until you begin cutting up a large head of cabbage that you realize just how many cups there are to be had. What to do with all of it?
So I set about finding ways to utilize my garden’s bounty. First I made a list of vegetables and fruits I needed recipes for. In my case cabbage, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, apples and blueberries headed my list. Then I began looking through cookbooks and magazines (no such thing as the Internet back in those days) for recipe ideas. Once in a while I found a recipe I could follow as written but most of the time a recipe served as inspiration, an idea that could get me started then I’d substitute ingredients and essentially create my own dish using ingredients I had.
Recipe Collection for Utilizing the Garden’s Bounty
As a result, through the years I’ve amassed a collection of recipes for each vegetable and fruit that we grow or forage from the wild: broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, pumpkin, tomatoes, leeks, apples, blueberries, cranberries and so forth. Call me crazy but I even have a list of ways to use garden lettuce that encompasses various wraps, sandwiches and salads that includes but is not limited to Greek salad, tossed salad, Caesar, Chef and taco salad.
These recipes can be put into play as each vegetable and fruit comes into season as the summer progresses. No more wondering what to do with zucchini tonight. I simply go to my assortment of zucchini recipes and make a selection. When broccoli starts to come fast and furious, I go to my broccoli recipe collection and choose a different recipe each day. This strategy works for each item as it becomes available. What a time saver! No more serving something the same way day after day, no more getting bored with the same old, same old. Being prepared with an array of dishes ensures the produce is utilized and doesn’t go to waste.
Create Your Own Recipe Collection
You can create your own recipe collection for the foods you grow just as I’ve done. First bear in mind what your cooking habits are and how much time you have for cooking. Personally, I love to cook, but I’m not interested in creating a mountain of dishes by dirtying every pot, pan and bowl in the kitchen just to prepare a vegetable, so I look for recipes that are simple and quick. Your collection of recipes can be of that sort or they can be as complex and complicated as you desire.
Next think about what produce you need inspiration for. For us, we love peas and corn so much that they are stand alone vegetables without any need for further embellishments, whereas others such as cabbage need more than just steaming.
Also consider the taste preferences of your family. We don’t care for foods with a southwest flair so I avoid recipes for those types of dishes.
Now begin your search by looking in cookbooks, magazines and the Internet. Don’t forget about the cookbook section of your local library too. But I would do your homework well in advance of the harvest. When you are drowning in zucchini you won’t feel over whelmed if you can simply pull out your collection of zucchini recipes and make a selection.
With this approach to cooking and meal planning, you’ll find you’ll be utilizing your garden’s bounty to the fullest extent because the quandary of what to do with the harvest is eliminated or at the very least minimized thanks to your recipe collection. You’ll also find you’ll be eating with the seasons, meaning your diet varies according to what’s available from your garden.
In spring you’ll be preparing and eating dishes that feature lettuce and other early greens as well as asparagus and peas. In summer, you’ll be making dishes that feature beans, summer squash, cukes, corn and tomatoes. Come fall, your meals become hardier and showcase winter squash, cabbage, potatoes, leeks, Brussels sprouts and carrots. This pattern continues into the winter months. In winter, if you’re like me, you’ll want a vast array soup recipes that use your homegrown produce. I have an extensive assortment and most are suitable for lunch or dinner. Soups are forgiving and more than once I’ve fiddled with a recipe substituting an ingredient I had for the ingredient specified because I didn’t have it.
Eating what you grow need not be a burden nor time consuming. Meals need not be boring or hum drum. Life is busy and hectic for all of us. Having a collection of recipes that feature homegrown produce at your finger tips ensures you make the most use of what you grow with minimal waste, but without having to spend a lot of time thinking and planning.
I’m not a chef. I’m just a self-reliant homesteader who likes to prepare home cooked meals with our home grown produce. With over 40 years of gardening and cooking what we grow behind me, the search for recipes and ways to utilize our garden’s bounty continues to this day. Good luck in your recipe search.
Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!
Ron and Johanna
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