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Wasted Food: aka, Why This Farmer Hated CSA  RSS feed

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I used to grow and distribute vegetables by the CSA model. I hated it because of all the wasted food... And I'm not talking about throwing away the stems of tomatoes, or the skins of onions. I'm talking about wholesale waste of just about everything in the basket. I would feel offended if someone thought that they had to to eat the leaves of the carrots, but it seemed way disrespectful to me to let just about everything in the box rot away. At least have the decency to hide the box before the farmer shows up next week!

I had some people that would make salads, soups, stir-fries, or casseroles and use up every bit of food that I gave them and would be wishing for more before next week. They made the CSA model a joy. But they were only around 10% of the people I grew for. And it's not like I was providing lots of unusual fruits and vegetables that nobody had ever seen before... A zucchini is a zucchini even if it has stripes on it rather than being only green.

So welcome Linda! Looking forward to read what you have to write.

One thing I have noticed about eating what I grow, when I grow it, is that the foods that the corporate processed food industry puts together may not mature at the same time in my garden. So "traditional" food combinations might not be available when eating from a CSA. I'm sure that varies by climate and growing conditions. Linda, can you give us any ideas about what combinations go well together?

Here's some examples of what my baskets looked like:

June 22nd, 2011: Early spring greens. Spinach, lettuce, garlic and onion scallions, radishes, turnips, bok choi. Barely enough here to feed a rabbit.


July 25th 2012: Root crops and summer squash. Most of the green leafy things are long gone. Garlic, carrots, beets with greens, onions, onion scallions, summer squash, sweet pepper, and apricots.


August 17th, 2011: Finally some tomatoes. Summer squash, sweet corn, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, apricots, sweet pepper, green beans.


September 15th, 2010: Start of the winter storage vegetables. Winding down on highly perishable things. Winter squash, summer squash, watermelon, muskmelon, decorative pumpkin, cabbage kohlrabi, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, sweet corn, and green beans. Volume is way high!


October 19th, 2011: Last ditch gleaning efforts. Lots of things that can be stored for winter. Dry beans, wheat, apples, plums, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, cucumbers, sunroots, carrots, turnips, cabbage, and onion scallions.


 
Heather Ward
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Joseph, I know what you mean. Prior to my move to a property where I can grow my own veggies, I belonged to a CSA, and usually we had used up our whole box early, and some weeks we were working 16 hour days 7 days a week and things were wasted. I'm afraid it happens. My solution to this was to get an urban goat established in my back yard, so that veggies don't go to waste, but I admit that it's a drastic solutionšŸ˜‰.
 
Gail Saito
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Whether you are purchasing food or getting it from a csa, we all have big ideas on what we want to cook for the week. However, sometimes we get busy and "life gets in the way". When that happens, I take the veggies and stick them in the freezer. When I have accumulated enough, I throw them (not literally) in a pot with water and make a nice, rich vegetable broth, which I then use or freeze for another day. I am very curious about what parts of the vegetables that I am burying in my garden (ruth stout way) that I could actually be using in my food preparation. Welcome, Linda!
 
Hans Quistorff
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We have an on line pre-order system so what is in your box is just what you ordered from a variety of co-op producers.
What I find frustrating is when my wife buys produce at the store because she looks in the refrigerator instead of out the window before she goes shopping.
I have had to resort to filling the refrigerator even though the produce would be better if picked and brought direct to the table.
 
D. Logan
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First, let me say those baskets have me thinking of all sorts of delicious things I could make!

Second is more on topic. I would think one way to battle this might be including a piece of paper. Something that listed every item (and possibly a short description) in the current basket along with cooking suggestions (links to the recipes instead of having them on the paper to save space and paper) specific to that basket. The list would make it easier for people to recognize what they have and the suggestions would perhaps inspire them to use things they are less familiar with.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I get wore out from telling people how to cook common ordinary vegetables. Eating food ain't that hard. Either you eat it raw, you cook it, or you ferment it. Hardly anybody would dare ferment food any more, so that leaves us with eating it raw or cooking.

You either eat it by itself, or you combine it with other foods. If it's raw, then it's either eat it out of hand, or put it in a salad.

If you're cooking food, the options are frying, boiling, or baking, either by itself or combined with other ingredients. That takes care of side-dishes, soups, casseroles, breads, and stir-fries.

Those few options pretty much cover every food that might show up in a CSA basket. Just watch... Next time I go to the farmer's market, someone will ask me how to eat a tomato.
 
Polly Oz
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Just watch... Next time I go to the farmer's market, someone will ask me how to eat a tomato.
Funny! Maybe you will be lucky and they will ask you how best to eat that particular variety of tomato.

A while back I stumbled across a CSA website that was full of recipes, featuring what was currently on offer. It seemed like a great idea, and if customers were able to submit their veg recipes, it might help inspire other customers?
 
Ann Torrence
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I once had a lady in a grocery store ask me whether I was going to cook my romaine lettuce.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ann Torrence wrote:I once had a lady in a grocery store ask me whether I was going to cook my romaine lettuce.


There are about 30,000 pages on Google for "Wilted Lettuce Salad With Bacon Grease"


hee hee.... As far as I'm concerned, cooking sure makes Romaine more palatable... Especially with extra bacon grease.

 
D. Logan
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I get wore out from telling people how to cook common ordinary vegetables. Eating food ain't that hard. Either you eat it raw, you cook it, or you ferment it.


For those of us who grew up with cooking, it seems very strange that people wouldn't be able to cook the ordinary. Sure, not everyone would know what to do with Kohlrabi, but a zucchini? One of the things I have come to discover about the majority of people I grew up with (let alone their kids) is that vast majority of them have no idea how to cook anything. If it is harder than boiling pasta or punching buttons on a microwave, it intimidates them. Even those who do cook, generally seem to feel like they can only cook if they have all of the ingredients for a specific recipe. The thought of just throwing things together on the fly is foreign to them.

It's all to easy to look down my nose and consider them lazy or less than intelligent. In reality, many of them are just lacking in the experience that it takes to have confidence in their cooking. They are afraid of mistakes or things not tasting amazing. Saying they can't cook becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. They won't cook for fear of making mistakes. When they do cook, they get so caught up in the idea that they will fail that they do. Some manage to get around it by always following a recipe to the letter. Most seem to just get around it by eating out a lot and getting pre-made meals to heat in the oven or microwave.

I have dozens of recipes for the zucchini I mentioned earlier. Desserts, sides, entrees, breakfasts and even a drink. Doing an impromptu poll of people I know, only one knew anything to do with a zucchini aside from zucchini bread. The one that did, only knew of ratatouille and fried zucchini. That is a serious issue to me, considering how productive one plant can be in a garden. Endless meals and all they know how to make is a sweet bread that uses a cup or two at most per batch. This is why I would think that simple dishes using mostly ingredients found in the basket and items found in the typical household (milk, butter, seasonings, etc). I figure that anyone who joins a CSA is at least able to do recipes even if they can't improv.
 
Dan Boone
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Hans Quistorff wrote:What I find frustrating is when my wife buys produce at the store because she looks in the refrigerator instead of out the window before she goes shopping.


I had this happen to me for the first time last year. We mostly cook and shop separately (she's cooking for her mother and there's little overlap with my plant-based diet) and it took some repetition before she learned to ask me for cilantro and jalepenos and tomatoes and cukes and green onions that I had just hanging out in the garden. But once my tomatoes really started producing, she got enthusiastic about them; she's got better color vision than me and would look out the window going "you missed some!" after I came in with the day's haul.
 
John Elliott
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Either you eat it raw, you cook it, or you ferment it. Hardly anybody would dare ferment food any more, so that leaves us with eating it raw or cooking.


Abundance makes for laziness; scarcity makes for thriftiness and people learn how to preserve food for later. In addition to fermenting, there is freezing (also mentioned above), pickling, salting, and drying.

I'm sure if these CSA subscribers didn't know where their next meal was coming from, every single bit of food would be used, in the manner of hunter-gatherers who had few times of feast punctuated by longer times of near-famine.

Maybe what is needed is a recipe insert with the food basket on how to make your own pickles, sauerkraut, salsas, sauces that can be frozen, and the like, tailored for the particular abundance of the season. That goes against the grain of our consumer oriented society, but so does the whole concept of CSA.
 
Dan Boone
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Ann Torrence wrote:I once had a lady in a grocery store ask me whether I was going to cook my romaine lettuce.


I can't tell you how often I get the "What do you with that?" question from cashiers at Walmart who just got stumped trying to look up my produce item on their little cheat sheet of product codes. And if I found them at Walmart, they're not exotic vegetables!
 
Ann Torrence
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Ann Torrence wrote:I once had a lady in a grocery store ask me whether I was going to cook my romaine lettuce.


There are about 30,000 pages on Google for "Wilted Lettuce Salad With Bacon Grease"


It was in Houston, in a not-yet-gentrified grocery where you could be a frozen whole pigs head. She was probably thinking it was weird collard greens.
Reason #461 why I don't live there anymore.
 
chad Christopher
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I agree with Logan, polly, and elliot. Some tastey recipes handed out, and or posted on facebook, using the vegetables and fruits provided. My friends farm received great feedback with this method. Another option is to provide some cooking classes if you have time. Even if you don't have time, i am sure someone near you would love to teach a class. Some extra income, and maybe some new customers. Also maybe a composting class free to your subscribers. Get some free labor, and may settle some food waste woes.
 
Dan Boone
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I get wore out from telling people how to cook common ordinary vegetables.


I'm not a farmer, but I find myself in sympathy with this. All the advice on handing out recipes along with the produce is probably smart from a marketing and entrepreneurial perspective, but if I were a farmer I think I'd find the necessity quite frustrating. Do the people who make pants have to hand out brochures with their product that tell you how to put pants on? No, they do not. Do the people who make beer have to, et cetera? No. If we live in a society where people have forgotten how to eat any food that isn't processed to a fare-thee-well and presented in plastic and cardboard, I think it's fair for people who make real food to feel grumpy about that fact.
 
Nick Rayl
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Hey Linda welcome to permits, just saw a new fermenting technology at maker fair. It might be cool to have a book to show us how to ferment all the cool foods from our garden or CSA. Thanks, check it out at http://www.krautsource.com, no I am not affiliated with the company or receive any monies from this plug.
 
Nicole Alderman
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D. Logan wrote:
For those of us who grew up with cooking, it seems very strange that people wouldn't be able to cook the ordinary. Sure, not everyone would know what to do with Kohlrabi, but a zucchini? One of the things I have come to discover about the majority of people I grew up with (let alone their kids) is that vast majority of them have no idea how to cook anything. If it is harder than boiling pasta or punching buttons on a microwave, it intimidates them. Even those who do cook, generally seem to feel like they can only cook if they have all of the ingredients for a specific recipe. The thought of just throwing things together on the fly is foreign to them.

It's all to easy to look down my nose and consider them lazy or less than intelligent. In reality, many of them are just lacking in the experience that it takes to have confidence in their cooking. They are afraid of mistakes or things not tasting amazing. Saying they can't cook becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. They won't cook for fear of making mistakes. When they do cook, they get so caught up in the idea that they will fail that they do. Some manage to get around it by always following a recipe to the letter. Most seem to just get around it by eating out a lot and getting pre-made meals to heat in the oven or microwave.


This is so very true. I was lucky that my mom actually cooked from scratch, rather than just using canned food, restaurants, and microwavable dinners. But, even still, we ate few vegetables, and only prepared a few ways. We ate green beans only when they grew in the garden. We ate broccoli and cauliflower either dipped in ranch dressing, or steamed with cheese on them. The only salads we had were iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. We never had cooked carrots--they were always raw. And, we had stirfry, and I don't even know what veggies were in there except the zucchini that I hated.

Those were the only veggies I ever ate: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans and tomatoes. And, potatoes, too (baked or mashed). I consider myself lucky that I ate as many vegetable as I did, and know one way to prepare them. My husband--and many, many more like him--had NO idea how to prepare, store, or eat vegetables. When I met my husband, he was 25 and didn't even know how to store carrots. I opened his silverware drawer and found wilted carrots! He thought that would be a good place to store them! He didn't even know spinach was a leaf--he just thought it was mush that came from a can!

People like my husband--and myself--are far more prevalent than you might think. We've both learned how to cook and eat far more food, but I still have to search the Internet to figure out what spices and foods complement which vegetables, and what is the most appetizing way to prepare them. My husband, when encountering a new food usually just eats it raw...and wonders why it's not that yummy.

Needless to say, we've never joined a CSA, because I did not want to waste resources on food that we wouldn't have time to figure out how to store &/or cook, and so would go to waste. Just like we don't plant food that we won't eat, I don't want to buy food that I may not get around to eating. It's a waste of food and money. Having simple recipes (with few additional ingredients)--with at least one of those recopies using up multiple different veggies from the CSA box--would probably help people like me. I know if I had such a recipe, I would be far more likely to take the time and brain power to try something.

Lack of time and brain power are a big hindrance, I think, to trying new things. People are busy, and it takes time and focus/brain power to learn to cook something new, even if you have a recipe. By brain power, I mean having the time/ability to focus on doing something new. For instance, I have a toddler. My life is hectic. I'm usually juggling 15 things at once, and if I try something new, I'm likely to destroy it when I get distracted by having to watch my child, clean the kitchen, and cook the other food for dinner. It's much easier to grab a bag of frozen peas that I know my toddler will eat and steam them in a way I know he'll eat them, rather than trying to impart brain power and time to figuring out how in the world to make radishes and squashes edible (and then have to cook the peas anyway, because my toddler wouldn't eat the radishes and still needs more food). I'm also far less likely to destroy the peas, since I've made them so many times before, than I am to ruin the radishes...
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I think that if I were required to provide recipes to go along with a basket of vegetables today, that it would go something like this:

Chop up everything in the basket and mix it together.

While chopping peel anything that has a skin that is too tough to eat. Discard any parts that are too fibrous to cut easily.

Dump half of the vegetables into a frying pan. Add 1/4 cup of butter or oil and some salt. Fry quickly over high heat until the vegetable are suitably tender.

Dump the other half of the vegetables into a soup pot. Add salt and oil. Cover with water and simmer for a couple hours.

If desired, add meat or spices to either dish.

That's pretty much it. A vegetable is a vegetable. If you can boil water, you can make a soup. If you can fry an egg you can make a stir-fry. Regardless of the vegetable, cooking one is so much like cooking another that it's just variations on a theme that is as old as fire.



 
Nicole Alderman
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I think that if I were required to provide recipes to go along with a basket of vegetables today, that it would go something like this:

Chop up everything in the basket and mix it together.

While chopping peel anything that has a skin that is too tough to eat. Discard any parts that are too fibrous to cut easily.

Dump half of the vegetables into a frying pan. Add 1/4 cup of butter or oil and some salt. Fry quickly over high heat until the vegetable are suitably tender.

Dump the other half of the vegetables into a soup pot. Add salt and oil. Cover with water and simmer for a couple hours.

If desired, add meat or spices to either dish.

That's pretty much it. A vegetable is a vegetable. If you can boil water, you can make a soup. If you can fry an egg you can make a stir-fry. Regardless of the vegetable, cooking one is so much like cooking another that it's just variations on a theme that is as old as fire.



This is good, because many people don't even know how to do such basic cooking. But, sometimes you can put the wrong veggies together with the wrong spices, and get something that tastes atrocious (my husband does a fantastic job of this. He goes through fazes when he just puts the same seasoning on everything he eats, no matter what it is. For months, he seasons everything with fennel. Then it's parsley. Then it's cinnamon. Sometimes it's fine. Occasionally it's delicious. Often it's barf-worthy. We once added Italian seasoned goat cheese to bean dip, with not-so-good results).

So, if you gave the above instructions, you could add that ____, ____ and ____ taste particularly good together, especially with ____ and ____ to season them. Even just including a list of spices that go well together, and vegetables that go well together would be helpful, like:

Sweet Spices:
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Anise
Fennel
Ginger
Tumeric
Cloves

Italian Spices:
Thyme
Oregano
Rosemary
Marjoram

Stir-Fry Spices:
Ginger
Garlic
Chives
Pepper


Vegetables and Fruits that Go Well Together:
Corn, potatoes, peas, carrots, onions (Great for strifry)
Potatoes, beets, carrots, onions
Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower
Apples, Pumpkin, squash (especially good with the sweet spices)

Of course, your list would be a lot better than mine, because I really don't know what vegetables and spices go well together!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Talking about lists reminds me of Northwest Edible's Jam Flavor Chart.
http://www.nwedible.com/create-your-own-signature-jam-by-mixing-and-matching-flavors/


I'd love to have something like this for what vegetables and spices go well together. Charts like this give me the assurance that all the time and effort and money I'm putting into a meal will actually pay off in something yummy. I wonder if there's any such nifty chart for veggies and spices already existing on the internet.... Then you (or other CSA farmers) could simply print them up and have them available for customers, or link to them on your facebook page or website. (And I won't have to endure any more Italian-flavored bean dips...)
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Of course, your list would be a lot better than mine, because I really don't know what vegetables and spices go well together!


I couldn't even make a list that long... I live a simple life. As far as we can tell, all of my ancestors were simple peasants since the beginning of time. To me, most of those spices are exotic things from far away lands with extravagant prices, and they will not grow in my garden, so they are not used at my table. Garlic, onion, and salt are pretty much my spice repertoire. With enough bacon fat or coconut oil most any cooked vegetable becomes more palatable.

Even though basil will grow in this area, I don't know why I would grow it or include it in cooking or in a CSA basket. Around here, it's not a socially favored food.

I'm attempting to grow my own yellow mustard plants this year!
 
Ron Helwig
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I think that if I were required to provide recipes to go along with a basket of vegetables today, that it would go something like this:

Chop up everything in the basket and mix it together.

While chopping peel anything that has a skin that is too tough to eat. Discard any parts that are too fibrous to cut easily.


Don't ask them to peel and chop, do it for them. Added value that allows you to charge more. After all, people that buy from CSAs are people that are "too busy" (i.e. too lazy) to garden themselves.

Put the salady stuff in a separate bag, all mixed like those salad mixes at the store. Again, added value that allows you to charge more while helping your customers.

 
Ann Torrence
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Ron Helwig wrote:Don't ask them to peel and chop, do it for them.

And now you need a food permit and a commercial kitchen in many municipalities because that is a "prepared food."
 
Linda Ly
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Ann Torrence wrote:I once had a lady in a grocery store ask me whether I was going to cook my romaine lettuce.


Cooked romaine lettuce is actually delicious! I like to cook things that are normally eaten raw (like lettuce, cucumbers, radishes).
 
Linda Ly
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Hi Joseph,

I'll start by going down your list and suggesting a few simple meals:

June 22 - Bok choy sauteed Asian-style with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce, perhaps with some mushrooms, and a handful of chopped garlic scallions on top. Or, bok choy in a hearty noodle and vegetable soup. Spinach, lettuce, radishes, and radish greens can all go in a spring salad with onion scallions. Or, braise radishes and radish greens in butter (or wine) and serve over pasta, rice, or another grain, drizzled with balsamic. Turnips and their greens can go in a soup or stew with other vegetables. Or, roast turnips and radishes with the garlic scallion bulbs (and onions and other root vegetables for a hearty side dish). Save the turnip greens for a simple saute with bacon, garlic and onion, drizzle with lemon juice or hot sauce in the end.

July 25 - Peaches, peppers, and summer squash are excellent on the grill. Carrots and squash can be roasted or used in a soup. Roast the beets and make a warm beet salad that you can dress with slices of orange, feta, walnuts, and a vinaigrette. Save one beet to use raw; peel and shave it (with a mandoline) and make a salad with thinly sliced beet greens and scallions (a warm dressing, like one made with bacon or pecans, helps wilt the greens a bit before serving). Use the remaining beet greens in a frittata or on a pizza. (By the way, my book has a recipe for beet and beet green pizza, as well as a shaved beet salad!)

August 17 - Roast the green beans and potatoes with balsamic for a nice side dish. Make skewers with the summer squashes, onions, and apricots for the grill. Eat the corn Mexican-style (slathered with mayo, chili powder, lime juice, etc) or grill the corn without the husks, then shave the kernels off and make a charred corn salad with peppers, onions, and a mustardy or tangy dressing. Make a Greek salad with the cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion (just add feta). Or, make quick pickles with the cukes.

September 15 - Throw the eggplant, squash, and tomatoes into a roasted ratatouille (recipe for that is in my book). Leftover summer squash can be used in bread, muffins, cookies, or cupcakes. Make a slaw with the kohlrabi, carrots, and cabbage. Or, make kohlrabi home fries. Try cooked cucumbers if you're tired of eating them raw (they taste just like zucchini). Melons can go into a fruit salad, or serve the muskmelon with prosciutto. If you can't eat all those ears of corn, shave off the kernels and make corn chowder. I think I see carrot greens in there - turn them into carrot top salsa! Winter squash keeps for a few months, but can be used in roasts, soups, stews, and curries through fall and winter.

October 19 - I see a lot of things here that can go into a hearty vegetable soup and be frozen for quick weeknight dinners. For all those beets, here are a few ideas: roasted beets (can be used throughout the week in various cold and warm salads), beet chips, ginger beet puree, beet hummus, beet brownies, borscht, beet kvass. If you can't eat all those plums raw, turn them into jam. Apples can go into pancakes, Dutch babies, pies, or monkey bread, or make a chutney with them.

I'm often asked what spices go well with what vegetables, and honestly, I think it's easiest to cook from recipes until you find the combinations that taste best to you. Knowing how different herbs and spices work with different meats and vegetables comes from practice in the kitchen! I can't imagine putting it all in a chart because the method of cooking greatly affects how an ingredient will taste (not to mention the infinite number of global cuisines you can pull inspiration from).
 
Mike Feddersen
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Nicole, I know you are trying to finesse recipes and combination hints out of the bunch here but it might be
easier to go over to https://recipeland.com/ and punch in the vegetable you have available. I did that
for bok choy which I don't even no if I have ate before and 112 recipes came up. I love that you can go
to your fridge, cupboard or pantry and see three or four items, punch them into the search function and
it pops out recipes.

Joseph you said you were planting mustard so: https://recipeland.com/recipes/list?q=mustard

I am starting to get hungry again after perusing a search of "garden" at http://recipeland.com and found this "Impossible Garden Vegetable Pie" https://recipeland.com/recipe/v/impossible-garden-vegetable-pie-25826

Looked up smoothies, learned coconut water was used during WW2 for transfusions when donor blood wasn't available.

And did you ever imagine "Spinach Cornbread"? https://recipeland.com/recipe/v/spinach-cornbread-54392

Check out all the egg recipes for you that have eggs coming out your ears: https://recipeland.com/recipes/egg
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Thanks Linda: I learned that one of the combination dishes that I love making could be called ratatouille. Ha!

Mike: The mustard plants are currently about 4" tall, and scrawny as anything, and already flowering. I'm not expecting much seed this year. I definitely learned that yellow mustard didn't like the way I grew it in pots for transplant. Hmm. Maybe it's not too late to replant via direct seeding.
 
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