Monday, June 22, 2015

It’s ALL Good: Using the Rest of the Plant

There is an abundance of food all around us. Some of it is even getting discarded in the compost pile without even realizing it is food. This time of the year, two of my favorites might be skipped over by other gardeners: garlic scapes and beet greens! Let us take a closer look at how we use them in the kitchen.

Our organic gardening and nutrition education class for the Family Fitness Challenge in Saltville was just the other week. In addition to making our own potting soil and transplanting herbs into pots, we cooked with produce from the garden and introduced folks to a few herbs. Our first, very simple recipe utilized those garlic scapes.

Basic Herb Pesto - just blend it all together!
1 cup fresh herbs (cilantro or basil)
2-3 Garlic scapes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (adjust to get the right paste-like consistency in the blender)
Salt and pepper to taste

To help increase fruit and vegetable consumption, we used spaghetti squash to sample pestos with this basic recipe using different herbs. Spaghetti squash is a fantastic alternative to regular spaghetti with all the nutritional benefits of being a vegetable. It also is one of the longest storing winter squashes in my experience; these made it almost ten months! I cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, cover with oil or butter, and bake for 30-45 minutes on 350 degrees. I like to use olive oil because it has a healthier fat profile than other options and adds great flavor. Just scrape the squash out with a fork, mix in the pesto, and enjoy!

I love using cilantro in this recipe not just for the flavor but also the health benefits and ease of growing. It self-sows well and produces the whole growing season. A couple tablespoons a day can also help with cleansing heavy metals.

Beet Greens are another great green to steam, saute, or cook just like kale, collards, etc. The baby greens are also great in salads and eaten fresh. Don't let these delicious foods go to waste!

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