Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Dual Purpose Vegetables

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

When you mention garden this time of year, tomatoes usually come to mind, showy and anxiously awaited, when a tomato makes a ripe appearance in the Pacific Northwest it's cause for celebration. But the garden is so much more than ripe tomatoes.

Nose to tail eating is popular in foodie circles, and in the garden we can honor the plants in the same way. Stem to stern perhaps? A garden instantly becomes more productive when we use more of the edible (although not popular or well-known) parts of the plant.

If you plant hard neck garlic you get a flower stalk known as a scape well before you harvest the actual garlic. The scape is the flower stalk that should be removed anyway for a larger bulb, eating it is the icing on the cake and gives you more garlic type flavoring for dishes.

More common are kohlrabi and beets. Both stems and leaves in addition to the bulbs have a place on the menu.

Since I started growing celeriac, or celery root, I no longer bother with celery. The celeriac stems and leaves make excellent seasonings in the place of celery and I can harvest a stem here and there without slowing the growth of the plant. And as an added bonus it is cold hardy too compared to celery, many times poking through the snow making for easy winter harvest as needed.

And last, but not least, Swiss Chard. I like the stems sauteed with the greens, and as long as you add them first to cook a few minutes before the leaves are added, you're OK and don't end up with tough stems. If that doesn't sound good, chard stem pickles in place of any other vegetable you may pickle is a good way to use the stems too.

These are just a few vegetables that come to mind this time of year. What summer garden vegetables do you get more than one use out of?