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Gardening | How to cook fresh from a Fall and Winter Garden
Nothing beats a big pot of home cooked vegetables or a fresh green salad from a fall to winter garden.
Fresh lettuce and spinach greens, with radishes, and even sliced yellow squash makes a wonderful side salad.
Our New Year’s Day dinner for 2011 consisted of a pot of fresh turnips, turnip, mustard, spinach, and collard greens, with a mix of other left over vegetables all picked fresh from our winter garden in Jan.
Be sure to check out my Hub on extending the growing season into the fall and winter.
What a frugal and healthy start to a self-sufficient New Year than to be able to run out to the garden and bring in enough fresh vegetables to make New Years dinner. The only thing we had to purchase was some bacon and chicken broth as we had used all of our stored up broth for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Gathering the greens and turnips is easy, but as the plants mature the stems will tend to be tough, just like cleaning a fish the tender leaf of the plants will need to be cut away from the main stem (backbone) and the spider stems running through the leaf as pictured. Long leaves will need to be cut up so they are easier to manage on a spoon or fork.
After everything has been well washed add the plants into a large stock pot (you will need a large pot as the greens will fill up the pot quickly until they are cooked down). The main ingredient uses a quart of chicken broth (We only use low sodium for the healthier lifestyle benefits) and then some bacon (turkey bacon for us) to add some seasoning flavor, 3-4 strips of bacon, a medium size onion, garlic gloves, white vinegar, and other seasonings form the spice rack.
Prep the leaves as discussed above
Chop the turnips and the medium size onion
Add the vegetables and greens into the stock pot
Pour the chicken broth in and add just enough water to where you can see it start to edge up on the bottom leaves.
Chop up and brown the bacon in a skillet, just enough to obtain some bacon grease (not crisp).
Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar
Add a few minced garlic cloves
Add the cooked bacon and grease into the pot.
Season with black pepper, and salt to taste.
Some add red chili flakes to give it a small punch, just about a ¼ of a teaspoon.
Bring to a boil and then simmer until the greens and turnips are tender.
Other vegetables can also be added such as carrots, green beans, and etc. When we go out to the garden we look for any vegetable that is available to add to the pot. Our New Year’s pot included a handful of green beans and some cabbage leaves left over from harvesting a cabbage. We try not to waste anything and it all blends together in the flavor.
We also make a hobo stew by just making a trip out into the garden and grabbing a few of this and that. Some greens, some okra, turnips and so on. These are vegetables that by themselves might not provide enough for a meal, but they really work well added to another mix such as a stew. Add some sliced smoked sausage season to taste and let it simmer the afternoon for a great evening meal.
Cabbage is another winter crop we enjoy having, we chop up green cabbage with, an onion, carrots and sliced smoked sausage, season using black pepper, and Italian seasoning. We are low salt, so you might want to adjust to taste or add Mrs. Dash salt free seasoning.
We will make regular Cole Slaw or we also enjoy a freezer slaw. Yes it is a vinegar based slaw that can go directly into the freezer, just type in Freezer Slaw into your search engine to find several recipes.
Scallop cabbage casserole is another favorite dish; it is easy and makes a hot comfort food main dish. Using a deep casserole dish add layers of green cabbage, and ground saltine crackers, with three pads of butter, per layer then pour in milk until it is half-way up the side of the dish. Sprinkle with black pepper, salt will already be on the crackers,( we do use low salt crackers). Bake the dish at 375 degrees until the cabbage is tender and has completely adsorbed the milk. (place a cookie sheet underneath as this can boil over and make a mess to clean up) When done the dish will gel like thanksgiving bread dressing. You will find many other recipes on line; some add bacon, cheese, and cream soup.
Red cabbage also makes several wonderful dishes with recipes available on line. German cabbage is a sweet hot dish that we enjoy the most, but recipes are available for both sweet and sour cabbage dishes.
We are able to continue growing summer and zucchini squash late into the fall and early winter by covering the plants from frost, so we use it in a variety of dishes or just steamed or grilled.
Slice zucchini squash length wise and lie on a greased cookie sheet and then add traditional pizza toppings (vegetable or meats and cheese) to make a wonderful vegetable pizza boat. Or just add some olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for a tasty snack in place of potato boats.
Several varieties of winter squash can be baked, or made into soups. If you haven’t experienced spaghetti squash give it a try instead of using spaghetti noddles.
And then the turnips, these are wonderful when they are young cooked with greens, but we also substitute mature turnips in dishes and stews where sliced potatoes would be used.
Several recipes are also on line to cook turnips in a variety of ways. You will want to closely follow the recipe as turnips can end up pretty bitter if not cooked correctly. Especially if you are cooking them for the first time experience, as you may not get the family back to the table ever again to try another turnip dish.
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