Tag Archives: seasonal eating

Spring Greens Ravioli & a Spring Gardening Checklist

Waiting for the bounty of a mid-summer garden can be tough. As the weather gets warmer it can be tempting to reach for supermarket tomatoes, peppers, and melons even though those won’t be ready in most backyard gardens for several months. However, we can learn to slow down and appreciate local, seasonal flavors. This recipe takes the overabundance of greens available this season and turns it into a filling and delicious meal. 

There are so many spring greens available for this recipe. In this batch, I used kale, spinach, chives, lemon balm, parsley, dandelion greens, ramps as well as violet greens and flowers. A note on the ramps: please research sustainable ramp harvesting unless you grow your own! They are overharvested in many areas of the United States.

Depending on where you’re located and what you’ve got in your garden there are plenty of other options. Consider using nettles, chard or beet greens, collards, creasy greens, cleavers, or even lettuce! I also used onion and garlic stored from last season but you could also use leeks or chives.

For the filling:

  • A large bunch of greens (about 1lb)
  • 1 medium size onion 
  • Fresh garlic

Chop up your greens and onion or leeks. Then saute the onion until tender. Add your greens to the pan, stirring them into the onions and place a lid on the pan and turn off the burner. Leave them sitting like this for a few minutes. You just want to steam them. 

For the dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • Spices to taste

Combine the flour, salt, and spices. Then add the olive oil and begin slowly adding water while mixing. Keep adding water and stirring until the dough forms a ball. You may have to work it with your hands a bit. The dough should be smooth, elastic, slightly sticky and easy to work with. If you’ve added too much water you can knead in a bit of extra flour. 

Roll the dough out into four sheets about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Then you can slice it into your desired shapes and add a small spoonful of filling. Press the edges closed with a fork or just pinch them with your fingers. 

Boil your ravioli for 3-5 minutes. Serve warm.

This pasta goes great with many sauces like a spaghetti sauce you canned last season, just a touch of butter and salt, or broth. 

Spring Checklist

  • Amend soil with compost.
  • Sow cool weather crops like kale, lettuce, onions, collards, and peas and thin them as needed.
  • Harden off and transplant spring crops like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Continue starting warm weather crops indoors (depending on your zone).
  • Plant potatoes.
  • Sow or plan to sow multiple successions of crops. 
  • Get creative with the food coming in from your garden and local farmers market. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
  • Mulch garden pathways.
  • Leave dead plant material and leaves as long as possible to provide shelter for beneficial insects and caterpillars. 
  • Watch transplants still indoors for problems and pot them up as needed. 
  • Install key garden elements like deer fencing, row cover, trellises, and drip irrigation.
  • Join the Big Bug Hunt. It’s an international ‘citizen science’ project that tracks when and how garden bugs appear and spread during the growing season. Making a report only takes seconds and they’re close to launching an initial pest prediction service!

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10 Easy Ways to Use Cucumbers

Cucumbers don’t seem to share the notorious reputation of summer squash for its summertime over abundance however they are productive. They’re also not quite as easy to preserve as something like tomatoes which are easily frozen, canned, or dried for delicious meals later on. If you’ve got baskets of cucumbers piling up on your kitchen counter try a few of these easy suggestions to make the most of your summer bounty.

Add them to smoothies.

Cucumbers are cool, mild, and refreshing making them an excellent choice for summertime smoothies.

Pickle them.

If you’re up for a more traditional preservation route there are many recipes for water bath canning pickles. Check out these recipes from Ball:

Kosher Dill Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

If canning isn’t your thing, try checking recipes for “refrigerator pickles.” These can’t be kept at room temperature like their canned counterparts but they will keep in the fridge for a long time.

Make frozen treats.

Cucumbers make wonderful additions to homemade fruit sorbets or popsicles. They’re nice and juicy without a lot of intense flavor.

Toss them in drinks.

Cucumbers are an awesome homegrown way to add excitement to your drinks. Sangria, gin & tonics, or even ice water with your fresh cucumber slices is sure to impress your guests.

Make gazpacho.

For those who haven’t heard of it gazpacho is a soup made from blended vegetables that’s served cool. It makes a great summer lunch and there’s tons of recipes to suit everyones’ tastes. Check out this recipe from the BBC, Green Cucumber & Mint Gazpacho.

Ferment them.

Fermented foods are great for your gut and pretty easy to make. Try this recipe for awesome fermented cucumber pickles.

Try a different cucumber salad.

Tossing a cucumber slices onto a plain salad can quickly get boring but their are plenty of recipes if you’re willing to branch out try searching for Asian cucumber sesame salad recipes or check Pinterest for more recipes.

Add them to a stir fry.

It may sound a bit odd if you’re accustomed to only eating fresh cucumbers but cucumbers are delicious in a stir fry or alone. Try frying some with a touch of oil, soy sauce, and ginger.

Make fresh salsa.

Cucumbers can easily be added to fresh salsa recipes like this one for taco night!

Make your own soap.

If you’re into crafts or diy projects or have ever tried soap making you may want to try adding some of your cucumbers. Search “cucumber soap” for recipes.

As is the case with many vegetables cucumbers are actually very versatile. If you’ve got an abundance this season trying a few new recipes can help you eat more from your garden and spend less time in the grocery store. What’s your favorite way to use cucumbers?

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How to Make the Most of Fresh Garden Produce

If you’re anything like me it’s absolutely devastating to see any of your garden produce go to waste. When we grow our own food we’re tied to it from the moment the first seed is plunged into the soil. Unlike produce off the grocery stores shelves that seems to magically reappear, no work involved, we cannot ignore the hard work that went into our backyard produce. We become much more aware of the all the work, the sowing, weeding, watering, harvesting, that goes into each individual carrot.

On a side note perhaps if the world had more growers, more people who still had a connection to the land, we’d be less likely to waste any morsel of food no matter who grew it.

Even with all the best intentions it can be hard to use up the harvest from even a modest size garden. Chances even if you cook from scratch a lot your family has a collection of recipes that you rotate through fairly often and not all of them are going to be great for using seasonal produce. Really using the products of a garden can take a lot work. Hopefully these tips make it a bit easier.

Succession Planting

One of the best ways to avoid the produce overwhelm is to plant in successions. Check out our succession planting post to avoid getting slammed with all your vegetables at once.

Invest in a Good Cookbook

More specially, find a cookbook that actually focuses on seasonal, local eating. Typical cookbooks have a jumble ingredients from all over the world and all different seasons all smashed into a single meal. If you want to make the most of your harvest finding a cookbook that focuses on making local produce the star of the meal is the way to go.

Southern Exposure offers several books with seasonal recipes like, Winter Foods by Brett Grohsgal and Julia Shanks or Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine by David S. Shields. There are many others out there as well. Chefs like Alice Waters and José Andrés are advocating for local eating and many have cookbooks to help people put local foods back on the table.

Create a Collection of Recipes

Don’t scramble last minute. While there’s still little produce coming out of the ground collect recipes you think your family will enjoy that use seasonal produce. I like to write mine on notecards but this could be as simple as saving recipes to a file on your computer. Growing a lot of green beans? Look up some green bean recipes. When you’ve got buckets full of beans in your kitchen all you need to do is flip through your recipes for some easy meals.

Seasonal recipes can be found on the SESE blog throughout the year.

Learn to Be Flexible/Use Flexible Recipes

In our house we have several meals that make it easy to use whatever in season. Year round we eat homemade pizza almost once a week. In the spring it’s topped with fresh baby greens, green onions, and maybe even some morels if we’re lucky. A little later we’ll be topping it with broccoli, then peppers and tomatoes and fresh garlic as the season goes on. In the dead of winter we’ll use dried tomatoes, frozen greens, stored onions and garlic, and sometimes peppers we put up during the summer. Other examples of these flexible recipes include:

  • Pot Pie – Take any pot pie recipe and swap in some seasonal veggies, peas in the spring, broccoli, then green beans later in the year.
  • Stir fry – Whatever veggies you have on hand lightly fried with a protein source, some seasonings, and soy sauce served over a bed of rice.
  • Shepard’s Pie – A layer of protein (we often use lentils), a layer of veggies (carrots, onions, peas, green beans, sweet corn, etc.) followed by a layer of gravy then a layer of potatoes.
  • Minestrone – Dry beans, season vegetables, stock, and seasoning.

Having simple go to recipes that you can add a variety of vegetables is a great way to avoid cooking burn out. Always trying new recipes can be a handful but a few basic ones can save you on those hectic evenings. Shepard’s Pie, Pot Pie, Minestrone can also be made ahead of time and frozen for later use.

Try to Plan Your Meals at Least a Week in Advance

This one can be tough especially if you’re a new gardener but gardens are more predictable than you think. When I harvest our first few cherry tomatoes I know that by next week we’ll probably be flooded with them and I can select recipes ahead of time and make sure I have other ingredients that go with them on hand. This also helps save money because we’re not constantly running into the grocery store for easy last minute meals which lets be honest usually means processed unhealthy meals as well.

Preserving the Extra

No matter how much you eat fresh there will probably be extra. While some prefer to give any extra away it’s a great idea to put some up for winter. Here’s some tips to help much sure you’ll use what you put up.

  • When preserving food put it up in the size containers you’ll actually use up at one time. If you live alone and cook small meals don’t pressure can your green beans in quart jars opt for pints instead to avoid waste.
  • Don’t put up tons of food you’re not sure you’ll like. Want to try pickled beets? Awesome can a few pints to try and then freeze or store the rest in your root cellar. If you find you and you’re family will gladly eat a ton of them you can do more next year.
  • Keep a list of all the food you have in storage. Reviewing this list before planning meals for the week is an excellent way to make sure you include them in your meals.

There’s so many benefits to growing your own food. You’ll save money, eat better, and reduce your environmental impact but you won’t reap any of these benefits if you don’t actually eat what you grow. Unless you just have a few container plants planning on eating fresh salads isn’t good enough. A single tomato plant can yell 30 pounds of tomatoes! Succession plant, find seasonal recipes, meal plan, and put up extra to make the most of your garden this year.

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