Veggies: Growing Your Own
When you think about it, working the land is part of the great American heritage, and even for urban dwellers with no more growing space than containers on a balcony, tending plants satisfies the inner pioneer spirit.
In the early 1980s, Marian Morash, in her iconic PBS show and its companion cookbook The Victory Garden Cookbook, reminded Americans about the joys of gardening as she demonstrated how beautiful and flavorful freshly raised and picked vegetables can be.
Whether it is frugality or the sustainable foods movement that has sparked greater consumer interest, vegetable gardening is increasingly popular. Featured in a June 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal, the article “The Vegetable Patch” tells how Americans are increasingly digging up flowerbeds to plant vegetables instead, a trend that, according to the National Gardening Association, grows annually, with consumer spending for vegetable seedlings up by 21 percent since 2007—and the money spent on herb seedlings is rising even faster.
Beating down big grocery bills is one incentive for this vegetable-gardening bonanza. But no one can argue with how easy it is to go pick your own vegetables and the pleasures of eating them moments later.
What to Grow
Seed catalogs, online gardeners’ sites, and local nurseries and garden centers provide the seeds or seedlings, the soils and organic fertilizers, and the tools—and gardening advice—so you can start your own vegetable garden. Your only constraints are time, energy, and space. Other than that, and depending on climate and the seasons, you can select which vegetables you and your family love best.
Most vegetables—and many fruits—are easy to grow at home or in a community garden. But be advised, once the crops come in, you may have more than you can eat or cook—so be selective on what and how much you plant. Also check with your local agricultural service or nursery to find out which vegetables grow best in your area.
Veggies in the Kitchen
As with supermarket or farmers’ market vegetables, your home-grown vegetables need the same care in handling. Although you probably intend to cook them right away, you need to store extras carefully. And if you have a bumper crop, you can freeze or can extras for eating later in the year. You can also turn extras into flavorful sauces for pastas or cook up a selection for homemade vegetable soups; eat some now and freeze the rest for later use.
Another option is to make your own vegetable stock, a handy flavor booster for any savory-dish recipe that calls for added liquids—such as cooking rice, barley, lentils, or other grains. Diced or cubed carrots, onions (with the skins on for added color), garlic, leeks, herbs, and celery are typical stock ingredients, but you can create your own recipe using your favorites, even adding vegetable parings. For a more intense flavor, sauté your vegetables in olive oil before combining them with water in the stockpot.