Menu planning based on produce ready to harvest from the garden is definitely a different approach compared to menu planning based on what is available at the grocery store.
At the grocer most items are available throughout the year, but they are far from fresh. Most items in the grocery store are picked unripe and then they are just waxed and stored for months. They might also be shipped thousands of miles from warmer climates. The types of foods that can be waxed and stored for months or that can be shipped long distances is limited. But, it does allow for consistent expectations of the food that can be found at the store which allows for a consistent menu plan. It is also what we have probably grown up with and what we are used to doing.
Home grown gardens allow for much greater variety in your meal planning because you are no longer limited to what the grocery store can stock. When planning a menu based on a garden harvest, I take a two-part approach: 1) evaluate what will be ready to harvest during the week, 2) have several basic meal plans that can incorporate many produce options. For example, a meal plan that simply includes “vegetables” as a side dish can be filled in with most any vegetable that is ready in the garden that week. Or, if you know that peaches are going to be ready this week, then you can plan to make peach crumble for dessert or include fresh peaches as a side dish.
- green smoothies (any combo of greens & fruit)
- omelettes (filled with greens, onions, any veg)
- handfuls of freshly picked berries over cereal or granola
- salad/rice bowls (any greens or veg for toppings)
- vegetable or chicken noodle soup
- pad thai
- zucchini or any other squash muffins
- toasted seeds from the squash
- any veg from the garden with hummus or guac.
- pizza (piled high with greens, tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil)
- tacos or burritos or enchiladas (any veg can be chopped into or topped on these)
- haystacks (rice topped with chicken sauce) (all veg & fruit can go on this)
- spaghetti or lasagna (I make crock-pot sauce with garden tomatoes and finely chopped or grated veg coming out of the garden at the same time)
- grilled veg (eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers, squash, etc. Slice into 1/4-1/2 inch rounds, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt, grill with or without meat, or make into kabobs instead)
- stir-fry is an easy, easy dish to mix any veg into
- Asian lettuce wraps (any green to wrap, any veg to top)
- simply prepared fruit:
- a quick peach or plum or mixed fruit crumble
- a bowl of cherries with a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips
- watermelon slices, etc.
- omelette with artichoke hearts, green onions, banana peppers
- smoothies with apricots, kale, swiss chard, mint, strawberries
- fennel apple salad
- collards & kale sautéed in garlic
- mixed green salad (8 different varieties of greens)
- raspberries (finishing), blackberries (starting), alpine strawberries (continuous)
- lavender, mint, basil, sorrel, rosemary, chives to flavor various meats and dishes