Like many young ladies in my generation, I didn’t grow up in the kitchen. My mom was a busy working woman, and convenience foods generally trumped cooking from-scratch. When I got married at 19 years old, I suddenly had to cook for myself (and my poor husband) for the first time in my life. I made many calls to my grandmother and my mother-in-law as I learned my way around the stove… “Nana, what does “broil” mean?” I kid you not… but even then I was cooking from a box or a can most of the time.
But gardening has brought me to a whole new level of cooking. Suddenly I have baskets full of fresh produce needing to be cooked, and I’m tasked with figuring out different ways to prepare it for my family. Sometimes these are things I’ve never even tasted before, like fennel, kohlrabi, huckleberries, or unique varieties of squash.
In the past, I’ve been really bad about letting produce spoil because I procrastinated cooking it out of sheer ignorance of how it should be prepared. What a shame!
To prevent myself from continuing to waste food like this, I’ve been compiling a binder full of garden produce recipes, which I call my Garden Cookbook.
Instead of separating categories by breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I’ve created tabs for every different fruit and vegetable that I can either grow myself or which grows locally. This way, when I have produce in season I can flip to that section and find all of the different ways to cook it. I’ll be adding meats to my binder soon: fish, duck, quail, chicken, beef, lamb, deer, turkey, goat, goose; everything that we can either raise on our land or hunt for.
I’ll also be adding a foraging section with recipes for all of the wild edibles that I’ve found growing in our area. I have a feeling I’m going to be needing a second binder soon!
Every time I try a new recipe, I make notes on that page about any substitutions I made and how my family liked it, along with the date we tried it. If my husband and I liked it but our kids didn’t, I may let some time pass before I try that recipe out on them again. Their taste buds seem to get accustomed to new flavors over time.
This method has been a tremendous help with keeping our menu fresh and local, but interesting as well. The internet is FULL of so many great ideas and recipes to try. Food.com and Pinterest are my two favorite sources for new ideas. I’m constantly printing off something new to put in my Garden Cookbook.
We can’t always count on having the internet as a free and available resource to us, so it’s important that we get these recipes in hard copy to keep for the years ahead. Consider making your own Garden Cookbook this year.