I wrote this little piece a couple of months ago as lecture notes for a gardening presentation. I thought it was good enough to include on my blog.......
Often times the garden doesn't produce in abundance. So sometimes there's just little tidbits of something, not enough to make a meal out of by itself. I see this happening to small gardeners around me, but it also happens frequently enough to me too. Even though I'm sure that I'm planting enough, the curse of bad weather, disease, pests, the sheep getting out of ther pasture, a neighbor's cow wandering through, all take their toll. So sometimes I don't get much return on a particular planting.
The learning process to grow a new crop also can lead to a sparse harvest. I can't count the number of times I was happy just to get a few carrots, or perhaps two sweet peppers, while trying to master a crop. I've seen other gardeners having the same challenge, so I'm not alone on this.
One other reason I might bring only a small handful of something to the kitchen is that it's the beginning or end of a normal harvest. There's always some plant that produces a few days earlier than its bed mates. And of course, some plant straggle behind at the end.
So, do I toss those 3 cherry tomatoes into the pig food bucket? Only one carrot ready....do I bother with it? Only one mini broccoli ready to pick a week ahead of the others.....feed it to the chickens? No, not usually. Having tidbits is common. The first....or last, sole cucumber, summer squash, cucumber. It happens all the time. Since I don't tend to preserve my excess (freeze, can, dehydrate, pickle, etc), I have to use those tidbits creatively. Here's some of the things I do......
... Have a meal of "finger foods". Each plate might end up with half a carrot cut into strips, a few slices of sweet pepper, a few slices of cold boiled sweet potato or Irish potato, all for dipping into a sauce. A hard boiled egg. Half a cup of yogurt with a handful ground cherries (or that last piece of pineapple, cut up) mixed in. A few cherry tomatoes. We've come to like a finger food dinner. You never know what it will contain.
... Stir fry. Just about anything can go into a stir fry or a sweet & sour dish. It's a great way to utilize tidbits.
... Soup. Start out with a basic stock soup then add the tidbits. Top it off with some seasonings and you've got a meal that used all those stray veggies. I've added lettuce, radishes, even cucumbers to a mixed soup.
... Mixed salad. This is another meal that we are very flexible about. Most veggies, fresh or steamed, go fine with a mixed up salad. I've been known to chop up that sole last banana into the salad, or slice up those two strawberries rather than toss them to the chickens.
... Omelets, quiches, fritattas are great ways to use those solo veggies. Only harvest three spinach leaves? Into the omelet they go.
... Sandwiches. Our sandwiches can sometimes look a bit weird to outsiders, but heck, I don't force people to eat them. If you look closely at the egg salad you will sometimes see shreds of carrot, green pepper, green onion, leftover cheese, minced tatsoi leaves, diced tomato. You never know what may be in there.
... Spaghetti sauce. I believe that spaghetti sauce is a fair place to dump garden tidbits. Just about anything could end up in the pot, including chopped fruits and macnuts!
.... Smoothies. Like spaghetti sauce, a smoothie is a dumping ground. Start out with yogurt and go from there. Anything goes!
... Grilled kebabs. Marinate, skewer, throw it onto the grill. Yum! I can use even that one snow pea or cherry tomato, as long as hubby and I don't fight over it.
... Glop for stuffing potato skins, peppers, scooped out pumpkin, etc. I'll usually mix the tidbits with rice or pasta to make the stuffing or topping.
I've been known to blenderize leftover mixed veggies and stir then into gravy for topping baked potatoes, rice, and making hot hot gravy sandwiches. Mixing those chopped tidbits, along with herbs, with cream sauce makes for interesting toppings over pasta, rice, bread, etc.
One of the many suggestions I make to new gardeners is to be flexible and creative with their harvest.......or keep a couple chickens. I feel it's a shame to waste all those tidbits by just turning them back into the garden. Worse yet would be to toss them into the trash can. Just about everything that's been cooked can be blenderized and stirred into the chickens' mash or pellets. The hens will clean it up and turn it into eggs, meat, fertilizer. (ps- chickens may not eat certain things raw, nor if presented whole, but cooked and blenderized my hens eat it all. I mix the garbage glop with chicken pellets to absorb the excess liquid.)