One of the main things you need to come to terms with when embarking upon a community food/self-sufficiency/local food type journey, is that your ingredients need to dictate the recipe, not the other way 'round. In our culture, we're so used to being able to think about what we want for dinner, then go to a shop and buy everything we need, with no regard for season or local availability. For this reason, a lot of people don't even know what's grown when, in what part of the world.
|Seasonal home-grown salad deliciousness, picked 5 minutes before it hits the table.|
When you start getting interested in local food and self-sufficiency, one of the first things you learn about is eating seasonally. We've written before about the joys of seasonal eating. We love it. If you try it, I bet you'll love it too.
Of course, it means that there are, at certain times of the year, things you just can't eat. At the moment, for example, I'm pretty much busting for some broccoli and cabbage. But broccoli and cabbage aren't quite ready round these parts just yet. I've got a few more weeks' wait, but I know when the wait is over, the broccoli and cabbage is going to taste oh so sweet, not least of all because I haven't eaten any for some months.
Sometimes, because of seasonal availability, or weird in-between-season gluts or dearths, you'll have a whole bunch of something, or little tiny bits of lots of things, or strange amounts of something else, and you think - what the heck am I going to do with this!? The answer, I've found, to these kind of seasonal-eating conundrums is, invariably, soup and/or salad.
It's really easy to make a delicious soup or stew from whatever ingredients you have to hand. All year. If you have an on-hand source of home-made stock in your freezer, even better.
Yesterday, for example, Louisa dug up a massive bowl of jerusalem artichokes, which had voluntarily grown themselves in amongst our lemon balm. With 12-hour-cooked chicken broth in the freezer, the answer to our jerusalem artichoke situation was pretty bloody self-evident, and tomorrow we shall be dining on some super-deliciousness.
Likewise for salads. I grew up eating salads consisting of iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Delicious! While I still have a massive soft spot for iceberg lettuce, I've since learned that it's nigh-on impossible to grow, so have learned to settle for much more eclectic salad ingredients, dictated, at all times, by what's in the garden or the gardens' of our friends and neighbours.
|roasted pepper , parsley and home-pickled 'caper' salad with home-made flat breads and hummous|
Kale (I find curly kale best for salad), red-veined dandelion leaves, rocket (grows like a weed!), nasturtium (ditto!), borage, herbs of all kinds and a plethora of self-seeded loose-leaf lettuce varieties all make regular appearances in salads at our place, year-round.
|Mixed leaves, awaiting salad-making|
Grated carrot, beetroot, garlic, and chopped tomatoes and celery, green beans, peas, cooked pumpkin and weeds like fat hen and nettle are also added, according to availability. I'm a massive fan of the grated and finely-chopped salad, because I like to have little bit of everything in every fork-ful. Makes it tasty, yo!
|grated carrot and beetroot, dandelion, kale, parsley, basil, chopped almonds, sunflower seeds and feta-stuffed bell peppers, grown and made by the lovely Bev. I love the colour!|
I also like to add nuts (chopped tamari almonds are a distinct fave), seeds, flowers (borage, nasturtium and calendula are my absolute favourites), olives or other preserved and pickled type things for extra tasty and extra nutrition.
For dressing, I'm ever-faithful to a bit of lemon and olive oil, though I've recently been thoroughly enjoying ye olde tahini-based dressing, and sometimes a bit of a miso dressing. I'm extremely haphazard with my salad dressings, and will pretty much mix up anything that takes my fancy, with varying degrees of success. But that's the thing: When you're using good ingredients, it's pretty hard to make it taste like absolute crap.
So even if your garden's patchy, or you've brought home a somewhat random selection of ingredients from your local market, rest assured that there's a delicious and nutritious salad or soup in store. Feel free to post your favourite salad dressing recipes or soup combos in the comments. We're always up for suggestions!!
|Extra added bonus of growing your own - you make friends. Anyone know what kind of frog this is?|