As winter approaches, I settle into a well-worn routine. I clean up my garden beds, carefully tuck away the tools, and then proceed to put down garlic bulbs for the coming spring. As I go about these tasks, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the ridiculous amount of food that we got from our little vegetable garden this year. This is a piece of land that could comfortably fit inside of a small bedroom. Yet this 200 square feet of cultivated soil has proved so fruitful that we basically didn’t buy any produce during the summer. During the fall season, every other meal that we cooked contained some garden crops. Even as winter descends upon our little corner of the country, my family is still eating canned tomato sauce, frozen kale, and air-dried garlic from our little garden.
Indeed, the produce of nature has bewitched and delighted my taste buds. I’ve learned to love my vegetables in ways that few “modern” Americans can appreciate. Home grown foods are incomparably superior in taste to the food bought from supermarkets. My own crops are so damned delightful due to the following reasons:
- They are all organically grown, essentially made out of air, earth, and water…. assembled by sunlight
- They come in many heirloom breeds rarely found in Supermarkets, each with highly distinctive flavors
- They can be harvested and eaten at various stages of life, each stage offering a uniquely different taste and texture.
- Some delectable parts of crops are never even sold at Supermarkets (aka Squash Flowers, Turnip Greens)
In modern agriculture, 90% of the average American diet consists of just 4 crops: Corn, Soy, Wheat, and Rice. All 4 of these super crops are genetically engineered and then cloned up the wazoo. These clones are then planted in near sterile soils and fed loads of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Essentially, we are talking about a world wide mono-culture, brutally locked into place by heavy doses of fossil fuel inputs. This ridiculous system kills the soil, pollutes the air, poisons the water, and ultimately causes resource wars all over the world!!!! And as it’s not bad enough, the end product of all of this damage is a piece of crap to boot! What most Americans are eating EVERY SINGLE DAY is a kind of industrial byproduct made out of petroleum residue and natural gas. This stuff contains nothing but empty calories, eating it day in and day out will make you fat, give you diabetes, and drastically shorten your natural life span! The fact that most people can be fooled into thinking this crap is “food” just goes to show the amazing, brain-washing capabilities of Corporate Marketing and the MSM!!!
So in my humble opinion, growing one’s own produce is about far more just getting tasty food. It is the closest contract between a person and the natural world. Take good care of the earth and she will return the favor! The very act of nurturing the land and making it bloom engenders a kind of humanity and virtue within people. Through cultivation, one learns to appreciate just how beautiful and fragile life really is. The crops that we eat had to endure sickness, pestilence, and the fury of the elements to make it onto our dinner plates. Thus, people should make every effort to eat every edible part of the produce that they do have.
Speaking of not wasting food, I want go into detail today about some of the edible parts of vegetables that people usually just throw away! If you’ve spent the time to read my philosophical rant, you must know just how I feel about chucking away perfectly good food. So to get to the point, here is a list of absolutely DELECTABLE vegetable parts that we harvest from the garden and eat on a regular basis. These vegetable parts are awesomely yummy, very nutritious, and saving my family boatloads of money on the grocery bills, so here goes:
1. Pearly garlic “rounds”
During the middle of summer, garlic plants sprouts a white round flower at the top. We harvest these “rounds” and use them in soups. It creates a very delicate onion-like flavor with the savory hint of garlic, making any soup delicious.
2. Broccoli leaves
These are the leaves around each head of broccoli. These leaves can be chopped into small pieces and used in soups, casseroles, or stir-fries. Broccoli leaves takes a little more time to cook than most green vegetables, and they taste just like cabbages.
3. Squash Flowers
Summer Squash is a highly versatile plant and almost entirely edible. The orange “male” flower is perfect for harvesting and dipping in beer batter and then frying or baking. There is this very pleasant flavor in the flesh of these flowers that is quite unlike any other vegetable that I’ve ever had. One thing that I always make sure to do though is to dust the male flower over the female flowers before harvesting. This ensures that the female flowers are pollinated and thus subsequently produce squash for us.
4. Garlic Greens
The stems and leaves of garlic plants are incredibly flavorful. It can be used to condition the taste of food in the same way that we use onions and garlic bulbs. Moreover, since garlic plants can grow to a huge size, the stem and leaves can be used as a green vegetable in their own right. One tip on the preparations of garlic greens. If you cut them when the garlic is young, you can continue to harvest these tender garlic greens several times in the Spring. If however, you wait until the garlic round comes out(early summer) before cutting, then the greens will be much tougher and you’ll need to slice it super thin and cook it for much longer.
5. Sweet Corn Stalks
Most people consider the stalks of sweet corn to be a kind of bio-waste. There are even government-funded schemes to convert these corn stalks into bio-fuels. However, the best use I’ve found for these wonderful things is to eat them. In the late summer, you can cut a section of sweet corn stalk and chew it just like a piece of sugar cane.
6. Summer Squash leaves and stems
The tender leaves and stems of Summer Squash plants are quite delectable. Their only drawbacks are these little spikes that seems to coat the entire plant. The thing to remember here is to always harvest the smaller leaves and stems and leave the big, tough ones alone. First, we tenderize these greens by soaking them in a bowl of salty water for an hour. Then we would pick out the spikes along the stems and leaves. Each leaf looks as if there are hundreds of spikes, but removing them is surprisingly easy. After doing this for awhile, I can de-spike an entire squash leaf every second. Cooked summer squash leaves and stems taste very much like Kale.
7. Pumpkin Seeds
When carving a pumpkin for Halloween or Thanksgiving, make sure to save all the seeds. These seeds can be placed in a lightly oiled baking pan with a pinch of salt and roasted at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. The roasted pumpkin seeds taste just like pistachios, only smoother and richer.
8. Pea shoots
The green stems of Pea plants are an incredible tasty delicacy in many Asian cuisines. So in the early summer we harvested a whole bunch of pea shoots right after getting the tender young peas. One should make sure to only harvest the young pea shoots, because the older ones can be quite tough. Pea shoots can be boiled or stir-fried with some garlic and olive oil. They taste a lot like spinach, only with a firmer texture to it.
9. Turnip Greens
The green tops of turnips are extremely delicious. The trick here is to cook it a bit longer than normal green vegetables so that it becomes tender. The flavor of turnip greens can be very much like a spicy kind of watercress.
10. Cauliflower Leaves
These are the broad green leaves that grow around the heads of a cauliflower plant. Most people only get to eat the Cauliflower heads because these heads can be easily stored and transported. The greens on the other hand shrivels up very quickly after harvest, so they must be eaten the day that they are harvested. Now the taste of Cauliflower leaves are quite amazing, just imagine eating insanely smooth and velvety cabbage leaves, that’s what cauliflower leaves taste like.
11. Carrot Tops
The green tops of carrots can be diced very finely and added to soups and stews. Carrot tops have this sweet citrus-like flavor that goes very well with tomatoes for some reason. I tend to use carrot tops in moderation. Add too much of it and the entire dish can take on a strange medicine-like flavor.
12. Beet Greens
The green leaves on the tops of beets can be harvested, boiled, and eaten. The texture is quite similar to that of Kolrabi. It has this bitter-sweetness to the flavor, and it can be very pleasant.
So these are the vegetable parts that my family eats on a regular basis. It keeps us healthy, it saves us money, and most importantly of all, it connects us with the good earth from which we came and to which we will all eventually go!