Enjoy More Of Your Garden

By Anita McVey, Picnic Life Foodie

Five unique ideas for connecting your garden and kitchen table all year long.

Whether it is tomatoes picked from patio pots, leafy greens cut from a raised bed or crunchy carrots pulled from the soil, fresh tastes best. The investment of time spent watering, weeding and protecting from damaging weather is rewarded when harvesting begins.

Learning new ways to enjoy and preserve as much of the fresh produce as possible is a form of continuing education. After all, neighbors and friends can only use so much zucchini!

Here are some simple ideas on how to get the most from your garden produce all year long, along with serving suggestions that your entire family will enjoy. 


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Five Ways to Enjoy More of Your Garden

1. Pesto: Pesto is a sauce traditionally made with basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. It can be used as a condiment for sandwiches or wraps, a sauce for pasta/pizza or made into dressing for salads.

Depending on what you’ve grown in your garden, a basic recipe (like this Spinach Basil Pesto recipe) can be modified to use kale, arugula, asparagus or even edamame. Walnuts, pistachios and almonds are common substitutes for the pine nuts. A few internet searches will quickly deliver delicious combinations to try. Pesto freezes beautifully for a garden-fresh recipe any time of year.

Meal idea: Pesto adds a punch of flavor to the Italian sausage and artichokes in these Lasagna Roll-ups.

2. Greens: When you’re working in the garden, it’s likely some of the delicious and highly nutritious greens are ending up in the compost pile or trash. When thinning beet plants, save the tender greens for a salad or sandwich topping. Try sautéing or stir-frying radish tops. Carrot fronds are delicious when added to coleslaw, soup or salad. Even pea tendrils are edible.

Meal idea: Top this Grilled Turkey Chopped Thai Salad with fresh pea tendrils.

3. Edible flowers: Grab the attention of those around your table by serving a few edible flowers with a meal. The blooms on zucchini, pea and chive plants are not just pretty faces – they can be enjoyed in a meal. Planting a few nasturtium plants in a garden adds beauty and the leaves and flowers are edible with a peppery taste. These edible flowers are an amazing source of Vitamin C, manganese, iron and beta carotene.

Meal idea: Place a few edible flowers on or next to a slice of this BLT Frittata recipe before serving.

4. Herbs: Enjoy fresh herbs all year with simple drying or freezing steps. To dry basil, oregano, mint or thyme, cut the herbs and bundle the stems, then wash and hang upside down in a clean, dry place. When the herbs are dry and crisp, remove leaves from stems and store in a glass jar. When adding the dried herbs to a recipe, simply crush the leaves, releasing any remaining oils and flavor.

To freeze, finely chop the fresh herbs and pack into an ice cube tray. Pour olive oil on top to “fill” each cube and freeze. Add a cube or two to soups or sauces and defrost to make a vinaigrette.

Meal idea: Defrost a cube or two of the frozen herbs and drizzle over a perfectly grilled steak or ear of sweet corn.

5. Pickles: There are many recipes for pickles that do not require a pressure cooker. All you need is a simple brine and a little time in the refrigerator. Depending on what you’re growing in the garden, you can think beyond the cucumber: onions, peppers, radishes, carrots, asparagus and green beans are delicious pickled.

Meal idea: Pork Carnitas Tacos pop with a side of Pickled Mexican Vegetables.