Why We Love Kitchen Gardens (And You Should, Too!)
If you are anything like us, then bringing what you have grown in the garden into the kitchen is essential. There is nothing better than cooking with ingredients that you have planted and tended in your very own vegetable patch. Check out our five quick tips on easy ways to use your produce to spice up your cooking.
One of the easiest ways to bring the garden into the kitchen is to have a small herb garden. You can even grow it on the kitchen window sill, so you don’t have to go outside to harvest them. It’s best to grow the herbs that use most in your cooking. So if Italian pasta and pizza are your thing, you will want to grow basil and oregano for sure.
Other herbs that make an excellent addition to a kitchen garden are chives. The stalks have a distinct oniony flavor when mixed through salads, and you can even eat the beautiful purple flowers too. It also a good idea to grow some mint as this is lovely with lamb and in the odd mojito of course! Rosemary and thyme are also a classic combination, and you can just about spice up any roast with that combination.
Talking of spice, it’s easy to grow you own chillis for cooking with. Just make sure that you water them lots. Don’t forget to replant them when they become too big for the pot that they are in either. Then you can have all the curries and spicy stir fry you like!
Lettuce is both an easy thing to grow in the garden and something that you will get a lot of use out in your kitchen. There are cut and grow lettuce varieties available now. Which means that you take off what you need for that night dinner, and the plant will carry on growing, to be harvested at another point.
It’s a good idea to grow a variety of lettuces depending on the soil you have in your garden. Sow peppery rocket, some spicy radicchio and some bitter watercress too. Then you can combine them into an unusual salad that with a few added extras can make up a whole meal.
Although salads are often thought of as an accompaniment to to a meal, it’s great to have them as the main event. Add protein in the form of chicken or tofu and some healthy fats from nuts like walnuts or brazil nuts. Then you can add complex carbohydrates like roasted sweet potatoes and finish off with a sweet and tangy homemade dressing.
Remember no one wants to eat a naked salad, the dressing is the most integral part! Grab some olive oil and sea salt and add a sharp tone like white wine vinegar or balsamic. You can also throw a few herbs from the garden in there to give extra flavour. Tarragon works well as does a sprinkle of roughly chopped mint leaves.
If you are growing to eat, then you have got to get some carrots planted. Carrots can be planted in normal garden beds, but to make life easier on yourself why not plant your crop in barrels of compost? There is plenty of room for them to grow vertically and you won’t break your back when it comes to digging them out!
There are so many things to do with carrots. Of course, you can boil or mash them as an accompaniment to your meal. But you should also try getting a bit creative. Try a carrot and walnut bread for instance, which makes a delicious and healthy treat. If bread is not really your forte and it comes out more like a breeze black than a tasty treat, cut out the hassle and get yourself a breadmaker. There are loads on the market to suit all tastes and budgets, and you can check out some of the best bread machines by clicking on the link. Remember too that julienne carrots are delicious raw in Asian stir-frys and salads and give you that delicious texture of crunch.
Potatoes are a staple of home grown ingredients and a family favorite too. Remember that the potatoes you buy in the store for roasting and baking are ‘old potatoes.’ That means that they have be laid down to age and are not eaten straight out of the ground. ‘New potatoes’ are potatoes that have just been picked and are eaten straight away. You can lay some of your own crop down, but chances are you won’t get that far because everyone will want to eat them as soon as they are ready.
Some cool and tasty things to do with news potatoes are a classic potato salad. Cut the potatoes in half, unless they are really small. Boil until you can stick them with a knife with only a tiny bit of resistance. Then drain and cool. Mix with your favorite brand of mayonnaise or make you own with oil, eggs, and vinegar following this recipe. Then comes the fun bit. Add dried mustard seeds, chives from the herb patch and slices of sausages or frankfurters. Or you can make apple walnut and potato mix known as Waldorf salad. These make such as great accompaniment to BBQ food.
Of course, no kitchen garden would be complete without some home grown tomatoes. Tomato plants are pretty easy to grow, just remember that they love the light so pop them in the greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill indoors.
There are some wild and wonderful varieties that you can grow now like the multi-colored heirloom tomatoes. These not only taste delicious but look amazing in a simple tricolor salad. Slice the tomatoes and salt. Then arrange on a serving dish. Then add slices of mozzarella, buffalo is best as it has that deep flavour. The juts sprinkle with more sea salt and add basil leaves and finish with some olive oil. Simple, easy and delicious.
Another great use for your tomato crop is to make your own salsa. Store bought varieties often have a lot of sugar in the to get the sweet piquant taste. So to avoid this, combine your home grown tomatoes, some garlic, lemon juice and salt. Then add chopped shallots and sweet red peppers that have been diced. Then grab your trusty hand mixer and blend. You can check out the best ones on the market here. You want the salsa to be a rough consistency perfect for picking up with tortilla chips. It’s the peppers that provide the sweet flavor without the sugar. If you like it hot, don’t forget to add some chopped fresh chili to the mix before you blend it.