When I was getting married, I knew I had to make a few green changes in my life. Food was of course, one of my top priorities. I’d heard it from quite a number of older and experienced women that obesity comes with marriage and motherhood and I knew that the old wives’ tale would catch up with me if I didn’t make a meaningful adjustment to my lifestyle. And that was it. I decided to start home cooking with home grown vegetables. But the question was “How quick and easy was it going to be? In my mind, I had a traditional picture of such home grown meals requiring lots of scrubbing, cleansing and lengthy preparation. However, with little enquiry and ingenuity on my part, I soon discovered that it didn’t have to be that way. Here are some time saving tips that can put fresh garden food on your plate without necessarily compromising nutritional quality.
- PLAN AHEAD
While some garden produces like fruits only need to be washed thoroughly before eaten, other vegetables like leafy greens, carrots and potatoes take more preparation because these naturally need a lot of scrubbing and preparing. However, you can still save time and plan ahead. You can harvest them in bulk with your family, clean and scrub them thoroughly and keep them in a sealed bag at the bottom of the refrigerator. This will make it easier for you to use as required over the next few weeks depending on how much produce you harvested. If you are very conversant with weekly cooking, this becomes easier as you would be able to dedicate your time to processing the food to make it easier to steam or warm up during the rest of the week. I often load bags of tomatoes, red chilies, cayenne peppers and bell peppers in my freezer. Sometimes, I prepare vegetables and sauces in batches using a large aluminum pot and store them away for later in the week and even after.
2. QUICK FIXES
Garden produces that require less preparation can also be fixed as quickly and easily as possible. Tomatoes, fruits and salad ingredients are quick to bring to the kitchen table; they may however need to be thoroughly examined just to make sure that they are in good condition. These can be rinsed and served in minutes especially if you keep a bottle of vinegar in your kitchen cabinet. The good news is that since it’s fresh from the farm, there will be no need to carefully check for brown edges or wilted leaves. Even garden insects will be killed while you wash thoroughly. Vegetables that are as a matter of fact normally cooked can be eaten raw upon being washed and soaked thoroughly. I personally wash and soak leafy green vegetables like spinach, pumpkin leaves, eggplant leaves, spring onions, jute leaves and even basil in apple cider vinegar and blend a combination of two or more of these with ready – to – eat vegetables like cucumbers, cabbages and lettuce, adding some amount of honey to make a mouthwatering smoothie. Sometimes, I may use chopped raw vegetables like basil and spring onions to garnish sauces, stir-fries, pancake fillings or toppings and even an omelet.
3. MAKE IT FUN
In most cultures, including mine, cooking and sharing meals are at the heart of family and community life. On some occasions, when eating with family members, you can involve them from the scratch. This would mean doing the harvesting together with children present and preparing the produce for cooking. Doing this with others may take longer than usual but trust me, the whole process will be very exciting, relaxing and worthwhile. This is also a great way to build healthy eating habits in children.
In the end, there is no denying that eating home grown cooked food is of more quality, taste and nutritional value than the store bought ones. I really hope the above tips will enable you kick start the integration of fresh food into your busy schedules. If you have more time – saving tips that will help others to integrate freshly grown food into their lifestyles and dispel the myth that gardening and home cooking only fit into the lives of those with too much free time, please do share them below in the comment box.