The Challenge

I have set myself the challenge of eating, drinking or otherwise using, something from my garden every day that I am at home.

Starting yesterday, 15th May 2012, I ate purple sprouting broccoli (both leaves and flowers). Today, I have prepared a lunch with my own chillies (in a salad) and I aim to have fennel leaves with carrots for my evening meal. I will be back later to confirm….

Yes, I managed not only chillies for lunch and fennel with my evening meal but I have also made fennel tea with more of the leaves. The tea does taste much fresher than the kind you buy from the shops πŸ™‚

Onto Day 3 and I didn’t expect to be cooking chicken tonight with thyme that I had grown myself. However, on the way home I popped into my local shop and there was a chicken in the reduced section (for all of 60p). An offer far to good to be missed. And a new opportunity for me. I’d never cooked a whole chicken before but after looking at my second slow cooker book I came across just the thing: chicken in a thyme and honey sauce with leeks and mushrooms. Excellent. Just waiting till it is cooked now so that I can try it out.

I also managed a peanut butter sandwich with some tomato sauce made of my own ingredients – largely. This is the last of the batch of chutney and sauce I made last autumn with the tomatoes, onions and garlic from my garden. After this it is going to be a few months without, unless I buy. I’m still getting used to the concept of going without, rather than simply going to the shop for a top-up of whatever it is a think I need. I will, however, do my best to resist the urge!

I spent much of Day 4 rushing around preparing to go camping, so the chicken cooked with thyme was the only thing that I managed from the garden. The accompanying vegetables weren’t that nice, so I think if I use thyme again it will be strictly with the meat. However, done in the slow cooker, that was very tender. And there was so much of it, it lasted through to Saturday.

Now, I am onto Day 6 and I am doubly pleased. Not only am I able to say ‘own produce consumed’ but my daughter has finally found that she does like mummy’s homemade tomato sauce – on toast with cheese. In fact, she has asked for more for breakfast. So, I already know one of the things that will be on The Challenge list for Day 7 πŸ™‚

Well, as predicted, today (Day 7) my daughter and I have eaten more of our homemade tomato sauce. On top of that, I also made a casserole with butter beans in tomato sauce. The tomato puree was not my own but the seasoning was: garlic, coriander seeds and green chillies. Unfortunately, that is the last of the garlic now until the autumn, but one thing about trying to eat fruit and vegetables in season is that I am learning to be more adaptable in my cuisine.

Day 8 could almost be a re-run of yesterday: more homemade tomato sauce with cheese on toast for breakfast and more bean casserole for lunch. Then we had something completely different for our evening meal. My daughter had been asking for noodles and I realised that if I didn’t eat the rest of the purple sprouting broccoli very soon, we would be eating yellow flowers instead of purple ones, now that the plants have started to bolt. So, we had a mock Chinese dish with noodles, fried egg, mushrooms, soy sauce and our own broccoli. I could now eat that all over again, it was so delicious πŸ™‚

Variety being the spice of life, today (Day 9) I didn’t have cheese with tomato sauce but took sandwiches filled with cheese and my own rocket to work for lunch. Then for the evening meal, I made potato salad with dried sage from the garden last year. So, even though it is still a lean period in terms of what I can get out of the garden, I feel as though I am doing very well.

I often make enough of food in the evening to have for lunch the next day, so I spruced up yesterday’s potato salad with some rocket from the garden on Day 10 and took that to work with me. Then in the evening, I had a day off cooking and we had more cheese on toast with the homemade tomato sauce.

On top of that, I also made a cake with my own rhubarb, spiced with ginger. Unfortunately, there wasn’t quite enough rhubarb, so I padded the mixture out with raisins, and look forward to trying it when it has cooled down. I generally find that one of my cakes lasts a week – depending on how my daughter takes to it – so that means we could be eating something from the garden without any great difficulty over the next few days!

It’s been so warm today, Day 11, that I haven’t had the appetite to eat much, so the cake I baked yesterday is untouched. However, I have made some chilli beef to which I am just about to add some of my own oregano. I’ve also made some fennel tea, which I am chilling in the fridge before adding ice cubes. I made the tea with sugar, which I don’t normally do, so am not too sure how much I will like it when it is ready to drink, but I do enjoy experimenting – and the fennel was free from the garden.

This Saturday, Day 12, the weather has continued to be hot and my chilled fennel tea did not go down a treat. Next time, I will avoid adding sugar but on this occasion I remedied the situation by adding lemon juice to take away the sweetness of the sugar I added yesterday away.

We were out for most of the day at a food festival, trying out local produce of various kinds (from cheese to olives to vodka), as a substitute for lunch. It was therefore a real pleasure to come home and get into the kitchen to prepare a proper sit-down meal: spaghetti bolognese with a salad spruced up with flowers from our chives and some of the fronds of fennel in the pot by the back door. I also had room for a desert of custard with some of the rhubarb cake, which maybe needs a few tweaks to the recipe but was all the same very nice!

Day 13 was another using-it-up day, meaning I finished off the fennel tea (through gritted teeth) and the mince. However, I did also manag to get more purple sprouting broccoli – both florets and leaves – so those plants have still got some life in them yet πŸ™‚

I almost bought some garlic – it was particularly tempting because it amounted to about 10 heads of garlic for just Β£2 – but in the end remembered that I was trying as hard as possible to eat local produce (in season). So, I walked away from the temptation and hope I can hold out until later in the summer.

Am feeling very pleased with myself today (Day 14). Last night, I decided it was time to take some things out of my freezer – and as the tubs were not labelled I was taking pot luck with the contents. However, both pots were quite a treat. The first one was soup (which contained my own coriander seeds) while the second was cheese sauce (great for pasta with salad containing my own rocket). I have also eaten a rather large bowl of my rhubarb and ginger cake with ice cream – the former has definitely improved with ‘aging’ for a couple of days or so πŸ™‚ To top all that, I am now enjoying a cup of mint tea using leaves from the plant I bought on Friday (which seems to have grown already).

It’s now Day 15 and I am onto the third week of this diary. And yet again I have been able to eat somethings from my garden: rocket in salad at lunchtime, as well as rhubard in my cake; then for the evening meal I added some of my own green chillies to pasta with mushrooms. I do feel as though I am cheating somehow, since most of the ingredients from my garden are in small quantities and would not make a meal in themselves. At the same time, this is a huge amount of produce in comparison with two years ago, when at this time the only thing of my own I was consuming was coriander!

I was obliged to eat a vey large piece of the rhubarb and ginger cake today (Day 16) as in the hot weather it is rapidly going off. That plus a party for a colleague who is leaving meant that I didn’t eat any other food from the garden apart from some of the homemade tomato sauce for breakfast (with fried egg and French bread). However, one of the dishes at work has inspired me to mix my herbs with beans in future: dill, coriander, mint and parsley. It does taste a bit strange but there was a side I could grow to love (I think!).

It’s now Day 17 and we’ve eaten the last of the purple sprouting broccoli – for the moment. The remaining two plants needed to come out of the ground to make way for the sweetcorn, which my daughter loves, so fingers crossed that this year we get a good crop. I also made a salad for my lunch which included some mint of my own. I have decided that I love this herb and so it will no doubt feature often in this diary πŸ™‚

June 1 (Day 18) must be the lowest point in terms of production. I took some of my mint as a present to a friend I visited today but apart from that I used nada from the garden. However, we are going away for a few days tomorrow and after that who knows what might be available to eat and drink? Mangetout look like a good contender and we shall soon see if this turns out to be the case!

In spite of going away yesterday (Day 19), I still managed to use more of the garden produced than on Friday: mint in salad and fennel tea. We might actually be able to use our own lettuce in salad next week, especially as I need to make space in the tub for the rest to grow properly. Anyway, all will be revealed!

Jumping to Day 22, we have now come home from a weekend away and as I hoped there were a few mangetout ready to be picked and eaten. So, I made a stir fry with tofu seasoned with onion salt, ginger and soy sauce. Absolutely delicious! And for dessert we are going to have the last of the rhubarb and ginger cake (taken out of the freezer). So, I am back on track again πŸ™‚

I couldn’t believe it, when I went out to have a look round after getting home from work: there were yet more mangetout ready for picking. Did they really grow that quickly overnight? Whatever, on Day 23, I have once more eaten mangetout for my evening meal – in another Chinese dish. I could eat like this every day, although I would be surprised if the mangetout plants could keep producing that quickly!

For the third day in a row, I could have eaten mangetout for my evening meal today, Day 24. However, I decided to have a change and instead picked some of the lettuce so that there is room for the remaining heads to grow with more space. This I ate in a sandwich, which followed some lentil soup from the freezer. Or rather, the curry I had had in the freezer and not enjoyed that much became soup with the addition of my very own coriander, freshly picked, and milk, all blended together. (A word of caution, do not use a hand-blender in a shop-bought soup container – the blender made a hole in the plastic and added an unintended extra ingredient to the soup.)

Today (Day 25) must be one of the best days yet, in terms of what came out of the garden. For breakfast, I finished the lettuce I picked yesterday and added some coriander to egg and cream cheese for my lunch. A colleague came round to collect some purple sprouting broccoli seedlings and I also gave him some rocket and mint. Then in the evening I made patatas bravas, to which I added my own chillies (red as well as green, though goodness only knows why some go red and others not), which I had with a rocket salad. On top of all that, I made another rhubarb and ginger cake with my own rhubarb. And I am thoroughly stuffed now πŸ™‚

I’ve just (Day 26) eaten the last of the homemade chutney as mentioned above. Still, it did last me for eight months, which I think must make it the most profitable of all the things to come out of my garden so far since I bought my house and started gardening.

Anyway, the garden continues to flourish, as does the chilli plant which is on a windowsill indoors. So, I added some of the chillies to an okra curry I made today and garnished it with my own coriander:

After a lovely swim this afternoon (Day 27), I had an equally lovely lunch which included lettuce and rocket from the garden. Before that, for breakfast I ate some of the rhubarb and ginger and for my evening meal it was the okra curry. I was taught to make it without coriander but in all honest the coriander does make one of my already favourite dishes just that bit more interesting. Thank goodness the coriander hasn’t bolted this year without producing any leaves worth eating – it is such a nice addition to so many dishes. And a year’s supply is costing me about 50p (compared with over a pound for a bunch from a shop, which most certainly would not last 12 months).

The best food from the garden on Day 28 has been the mangetout as I got quite a handful to add to a stirfry this evening. I also enjoyed a mint tea from the garden – note to self, this is a drink best drunk warm, unlike brown tea and coffee which I can happily drink cold. Apart from that I finished off the salad of lettuce and rocket I made yesterday, which was a bit soggy after marinading in olive oil and sherry vinegar overnight, but it’s all lessons learned πŸ™‚

Has something happened to my taste buds on Day 29? I added some of my coriander to a chickpea stew that I had taken out of the freezer but the taste was so awful I couldn’t eat the meal. So, perhaps coriander doesn’t go with everything after all! On the other hand, I was pleased to be able to eat the rest of the stirfry with mangetout from last night and my ginger and rhubarb cakes takes just as good.

Well, fortunately today (Day 30) my taste buds seem back to normal and I enjoyed my thyme in the potato salad I made for my evening meal. However, that is all I managed from the garden today. Things seem on a go-slow in that department at the moment because of all the rain, but it does look like I could have some lettuce tomorrow at least!

And I have indeed had some more lettuce, as well as rocket, for my evening meal. Now, I wish that my radishes would hurry up so that I can spruce up salads a bit (Day 31). Let’s see what the next month of The Challenge brings…..

7 Responses to The Challenge

  1. Hi, I like your idea to record your usage of garden produce – very impressive. I like the sound of the tomato sauce and I’d love to try making my own chutney. Any chance you would post your recipe sometime?!

  2. Thanks for reading this page πŸ™‚ I’ll post up my recipes when I get home from work – the chutney and sauce were made in a slow cooker, though the recipes I adapted for that were meant for a pot over the stove.

    • Here is the recipe for green tomato chutney.. as most of my tomatoes were still green in October, this was quite apt:

      1.8 kg/4lb green tomatoes, sliced
      450g/1lb apples, cored and choppped
      560g/1 1/4 lb onions, sliced
      175ml/6fl oz vinegar
      450g/1lb sugar
      225g/8oz raisins (or other dried fruit)
      30g/1 oz salt
      the following to taste : dried chillies, cloves, root ginger, garlic (I guess powder versions might work as well)

      There is less liquid in this recipe because I made the chutney in a slow cooker (you’d need 600ml/1 pint of vinegar if cooking in a pan). I just put the whole lot in the pot at the same time. However, the recipe book says that the dried fruit should be added several hours (in the case of slow cookers) after the rest has been in.

      The slow cooker I used last year was very fast, even on the slowest setting, so I think it took me about fout/five hours to make. I think it would take considerably less time on the stove – just until the mixture thickens.

      NB The jars need sterilising, which I did by boiling them in my wok. I haven’t had any problems with the chutney or sauce I made, which came as a surprise to me at this was the first time I had ever made any codiments of my own.

      Recipes adapted from: Gear, Alan and Jackie, 2011, Vegetable and Fruit Growing and Preserving Month by Month; Atkinson, Catherine and Fleetwood, Jenni, 2005/2010, Slow Cooker, One-pot and Casserole Cookbook.

      • lynn marie says:

        Hi silverbells2012, what a great idea to use something from your garden with every meal. One day I will grow enough variety that I will try that! Your tomato chutney recipe sounds delicious – I am going to bookmark it and make it in the autumn!

        • Thank you, lynn marie.
          Apart from actually keeping me focussed on the challenge, documenting it all is helping me see the patterns in what comes out of the garden, so all being well I will be better at planning next year πŸ™‚

  3. Hello! I ended up here from your post on my blog (www.wilocavore.blogspot.com). You seem to be off to a pretty good start in your own local challenge! We seem to have similar climates (albeit across the world! And yours seems to be a little more temperate than mine.) Maybe we could exchange some tips! You can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HomeGrownHomemade

    • Hi Kate, and thanks for the interest you’ve shown in my blog. I am sure that we can share some tips about growing our own food. I don’t have a very big garden, so I will never be anything like self-sufficient, but it is fun and I have started focussing on things that I had never even considered before, such as the birds which (now) visit my patch πŸ™‚

I love to read about your own experiences and any other feedback you have, so look forward to your comments below.

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