Sometimes all I can do is scratch my head.
Every year I grow a garden. And every year I must ultimately deal with the influx of harvest vegetables. My goal? To preserve the vegetables a-la-eighteenth-century-like. Well, sorta. I use a freezer.
I grow things that: a) we will eat all summer long. Like fresh green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes and basil and radishes and zucchini and arugula; b) I can turn into actual meals and freeze like leek and potato soup, pesto, pizza and pasta sauces, spicy carrot soup, and pepper dishes; c) I can freeze and can to preserve like relishes, jalapeno ketchup, candy jalapeno, pepper jelly (I grow a lot of peppers), tomato jam, pickles; d) I can simply flash freeze so I can use fresh ingredients in the middle of winter like beets, sliced leeks, grated lemon cucumber, zucchini, and banana peppers, onions, and corn; e) Just simply get dried like my black beans, Italian rose beans, rosemary, and fennel seeds.
I have a large 3-ring notebook (no surprise) that I fill with recipes I collect throughout the year that will use the vegetables either I am growing or that are in season over the summer. Every week when the harvest starts to come in I pull out recipes I want to make.
I’ll be honest here. It is overwhelming. And sometimes I wonder why the hell I grow so much. When there is a pile of zucchini and yellow squash, a huge bowl of tomatoes, dozens of yardlong beans, half a dozen leeks, some cucumbers, herbs, a few beets, a few carrots, and a bowl full of kale…and I go back to scratching my head and suddenly desiring a nap…and that harvest is from one little afternoon…that I can carry in the one bowl I brought out to the garden with me.
Every September-November it is the same thing around here. Weekends full of canning relishes and pickles and jellies. Of making tomato sauces and pesto’s. Of making soups using carrots, leeks, zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, peppers. Of thinking of dinners stuffing zucchini or creating salads using heirloom tomatoes and sliced cucumber. Of discovering ways to blanch beets and freeze them for later…
Oh sure, during summer I am preparing things here and there. For instance, early on I may make a batch of salsa from what is coming out of the garden early. Maybe slice a tomato and cucumber in our salad. Or cook up a side of yardlong beans with dinner. But inevitably when September rolls around I am inundated with fresh produce.
It’s a total love-hate. (More love than hate. And perhaps hate is too strong a word. Overwhelming is better.)
Which brings me to the point of this blog. (I know, I was beginning to wonder if I had a point too.)
When I start freezing meals using up the garden harvest sometimes I get a little overzealous. For instance, I decided it would be fun to make things that didn’t necessarily come out of the garden. Like ravioli’s (okay, technically I used kale instead of spinach to fill them). And lentil burgers. And broccoli meatballs. Granted, I used a pepper or herb or onion that came from the garden INSIDE those recipes.
Do my kids love lentil burgers? Are you really asking me that? Hell no, they don’t. However, they eat it if that is what’s for dinner. But it doesn’t stop them from complaining about it.
Recently my mom asked me, “Do the kids even like the vegetables you are growing?”
I had grandparents that grew everything in fields behind their Los Angeles home from the time they were married in the early 1920s until the 1970s when they got too old…and even then my grandmother still grew herbs, grapes, and a variety of fruit trees. I asked my mom, “Did nana and papa consult with you and your siblings before they grew a variety of fruit and vegetables during the 1930s when you were all children?”
Give me a break.
Of course my grandmother didn’t. She cooked. They ate. End of story.
Now, did my Italian grandmother whip up lentil burgers? Chances are she didn’t but she was a very creative cook and fed a lot of mouths when there wasn’t a ton of money.
I finally asked my mom, “Are you really giving me shit for feeding my children – fresh ingredients from my garden? And a variety of vegetarian dishes?” (For the record, we are not vegetarians but we eat meatless meals at least twice a week, sometimes more.)
Her response: “Those poor kids. Make them regular meatballs with actual meat!”
My response: “I guess if the worst thing I do as a parent is give my kids whole foods with ingredients fresh my own garden, then I’ll take it.”
Over the weekend I had a conversation with my brother who sees the pictures of the food I am making on Facebook. He said to me, “Nana and Papa are turning over in their graves! Broccoli meatballs! What is all that shit you are making?”
Are you kidding me?
I told him I can’t believe he is actually complaining about this to me and that I just happen to be maybe a bit more, um, creative with what I take out of my garden or buy from the local growers.
So, let me get this straight. I spend a good six months working on and in my garden. Out there every single day. All summer long we eat fresh vegetables and all through the year we eat fresh ingredients I have either frozen, canned, or cooked into a meal. I never buy boxed up food from the grocery store, my kids don’t eat frozen pizza, and we hardly ever go to a fast food restaurant. And you are giving me shit for making broccoli meatballs? Really?
I’m back to scratching my head.