EYB and the seasonal cook

Although I’ve been gardening vegetables for almost 10 years and have made enough mistakes to consider myself sort of “experienced,” harvesting has always been a weak point for me.  If I haven’t been vigilant, the late crops are buried under weeds and I can’t find them, or the pests have munched them to bits.  As for the early crops, they come and go faster than you can say “arugula!”.  By the time I get around to planning a meal around them, they’re bitter, or bolting and setting seed.

Over the years I’ve learned to anticipate my weaknesses.  Raised beds hold in the compost so I only have to compost once.  Mulch keeps down weeds so I don’t have to weed so often.  Drip irrigation allows me to forget about watering.  And now that I have EYB, I have better ways to cope with a harvest that is finally getting big enough to warrant planning around.

Here’s my method: when I do the weekly menu planning, I take my yellow legal pad and jot down in the upper right corner what I’ve got coming in the garden.  June 13th it was “peas, spinach, turnip greens, favas”.  July 18th it was “green beans, zukes, cukes, chard/kale”.  This week it’s “kale/chard, TOMATOES, carrots, corn”.

Then I search those ingredients against the week’s recipe-testing–a snap if the book’s already indexed.  Or, if I’m not testing, I search them against my “Do Laters” filter (now updated and fully functional, following all the helpful advice I got on the Recipe Wishlists post).  If I’m still not inspired, I search them against my “Favorites” filter.  Soon I have a good idea of what I’m going to need to shop for.  At this time of year–with the garden full of produce, the freezer full of meat, and the pantry full of dry carbs–it’s often a pretty small list.

Some folks think it’s crazy to bother with such a system and obsess so much over what we’re going to eat for the next week.  But I’d do it even if it weren’t my job. In fact, I’d do a lot more, just to have the certainty of a few really good meals.  Wouldn’t you?

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