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Meal Planning from the Garden

Meal Planning from the Garden

Until I got married, I didn’t know what okra or eggplant looked like fresh-picked from the garden. Now I have delicious recipes using both. It really takes a few years to get a handle on what to expect when it comes to the garden, but there are steps you can take now to make the most of your garden all year long.

Chives from our garden.

How much will you get?
Weather, insects, seed quality and other factors all have an impact on yield. One summer, we did nothing, it seemed, but till, water and fertilize the gardens hoping for an amazing bounty. Be careful what you wish for, because by the time we had brought in all of the veggies, we were way too tired to do anything productive with them and so much went to waste.

Can? Freeze? Share? Eat?
What will you do with your produce? Will you can it? Freeze it? Share it? Eat it straight from the garden? You might do any and all of these things. As we plant the garden, we do it in shifts with a week or so in between plantings to ensure we aren’t pulling all-nighters processing vegetables in the kitchen. For this reason, I recommend starting a garden calendar to help you plan for the different veggies to be ripe and set aside time for processing, depending on the yield.

Cilantro from the garden.

Garden to table
You have no better friend than the Internet to help you figure out what to do with all of those vegetables. If you’ve never canned before, find a class at a university extension office or go to the extension office’s website. There, you’ll find instructions specific to your area with recipes to turn tomatoes, for example, into everything from ketchup to spaghetti sauce. I also like to pretend I have only a few ingredients to create a masterpiece. In my search engine, maybe I’ll type “chicken, fresh basil, Roma tomatoes, onions, spinach, recipes.” Choosing from among the recipes that come up, I print off one or a couple and I’ve got dinner under control.

Radishes from the garden starting to sprout!

Plan now to avoid waste later
In September, even the best of us see those final, defeated, deflated tomatoes gloriously freefall to the ground in foul-smelling splats. You can avoid this by using your garden calendar and finding recipes for the ingredients you know you’ll have at the time. Pair it with your very own “Four Seasons” cookbook, tabbed by veggie, using a three-ring binder and plastic top-loaders to keep everything clean. Even in the fall and winter months, you’ll be reliving the warmth and delight of your summer garden!

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