It is so easy to prepare fresh vegetables from the garden. And there is nothing better than a meal made with fresh picked garden produce.
Who doesn’t wait with baited breath for the very first sun ripened tomato to be plucked from the vine in the heat of the summer? And is there any denying the excitement that you feel when you cut into the first fresh pumpkin of the season? Fresh pumpkin pie anyone? Oh yes. Yes indeed.
Eating vegetables plucked fresh from the garden is a lifestyle choice that can’t be beat. It doesn’t matter if it’s your garden, or the garden of the farmer at your local market, eating fresh grown produce is highly recommended.
Once the garden veggies start flowing into from the garden, that is pretty much all we eat in my house.
And even though I was unable to have my own garden for the majority of my life, it’s always been this way. Pre-garden days found me lugging fully loaded bags of garden fresh goodies home from the farmers market at least once a week.
Prepare fresh vegetables for your health …
I often hear the virtues of eating fresh picked garden veggies for your health, and they are many. Quite honestly, I think that this practice is one of the most helpful things you can do for your overall well-being; mind, body, and soul.
They are absolutely loaded with nutrients, unlike their mass-produced grocery store counterparts. And it is pretty easy to choose those that have been grown using organic practices. Which eliminates the introduction of a great deal of chemicals into your system.
So, by all means, make the choice to eat more garden fresh veggies for your health.
BUT, don’t make that the only reason you choose to indulge in garden fresh goodness. Make it a point to become as familiar with the preparation of these gifts from the earth as you are with any other food.
There is no reason at all for your veggie dishes to be boring. And they can absolutely have such a wide range of variety that you look forward to eating them every single day.
Does it take more time to prepare food picked fresh from the garden?
Preparing garden fresh veggies is no more time consuming than preparing any other food. Some dishes will take a great deal of time, and others will be ready to eat in the blink of an eye.
You can choose to create an elaborate veggie stir fry, cooked in a cast iron wok, over an outdoor fire, that will take some time. But it will be well worth the extra effort.
Or you can pick a few fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes and eat them straight from the vine (after you wash them of course) with a little bit of salt (or not) and call it dinner on a hot summer night.
Do I have to clean vegetables picked straight from the garden?
It is best to wash veggies picked straight from the garden. Even if you use organic gardening practices there can be residues from organic pesticides and fertilizers on your veggies that aren’t particularly good for you to consume.
It is unlikely that they will hurt you, that is true. But that does not negate the fact that they may not be very good for you.
So, just wash the veggies. Although, I won’t lie I do recommend eating at least a few of the first fresh cherry tomatoes to ripen each season straight from the vine. And please, oh please, do it in your bare feet. It makes all the difference in the world.
Should I refrigerate vegetables picked straight from the garden?
I’m not a huge fan of refrigerating garden fresh vegetables. It changes the flavor considerably.
As a matter of fact, a tomato should never be refrigerated unless it is absolutely necessary. Refrigeration gives it a very mealy texture.
But the fact of the matter is that there are times when refrigerating your garden fresh veggies can’t be avoided.
In my house I keep veggies on the counter for as long as possible after harvesting them. I use them every time I cook, so there is not a quickly growing surplus of them at any given time. But, sometimes there are just too many to keep up to.
If the weather gets too hot I put them in the refrigerator after just a day or so. They can turn very quickly in hot weather, often in just one afternoon.
Otherwise, I keep them there until it is absolutely necessary to preserve them in some way.
If I am able to preserve them before I have to refrigerate them I do that, it’s the preferred method. But, if I don’t have time or I haven’t accrued enough to make it worth my time to invest in the preservation process, I put them in the refrigerator until I can get it done.
How to prepare fresh picked vegetables for breakfast
Making breakfast with fresh garden veggies is a snap. And there’s really no better way to start the day.
You can prepare ahead for most of the dishes below and that will make the time you have to put in to making your breakfast on a busy morning pretty minimal.
Simply finely chop, season, and saute a large bowl of veggies. Carrots, beans, peas, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, eggplant, and tomatoes are great for this purpose.
If you’re planning to use tomatoes, keep them out of the blend until after it has been cooked through. You can add them once your veggies have been removed from the heat. That will be enough to warm them without turning them to mush.
Use this blend to make the following breakfasts …
TOAST TOPPED WITH GRILLED VEGGIES – Toast your favorite bread. Spread it with cream cheese or avocado if you wish, and then top it with a generous portion of your sauteed veggie blend.
VEGGIE OMELET – Whip up an omelet using your sauteed veggie blend. Or simply scramble a few eggs and stir the blend in. It’s not an omelet, but it’s tasty and quick. In my house we call it a breakfast mess.
SAVORY OATMEAL – Whip up a bowl of oatmeal, and then top it savory style. Skip the milk, fruit, and sugar. Use butter, savory spices, and your sauteed veggie blend instead. Garlic, pepper, paprika, basil, thyme, and oregano are great choices to season this dish.
HOMEFRY STIR FRY – You’re going to need a few pre-baked potatoes for this one. Make them the same day you make your veggies. Then cut them and fry them in butter with garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir in some of your sauteed veggies just before you take them out of the pan. And serve them just as they are, or with a little bit of organic sour cream.
Other easy ways to use garden fresh veggies to make breakfast are …
BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE – There are literally endless combinations for veggie based smoothies. You can make them with or without fruit. You can make them green based, tomato based, or carrot and celery based just to name a few ways. Experiment a little bit and find one, or twenty, that you love.
And finally there is the …
VEGGIE TOPPED BREAKFAST SANDWICH – This is a favorite in my house. But then we have always had a bit of a thing for breakfast sandwiches around here. We sometimes top them with thinly sliced, sauteed zucchini, mushrooms, and onions. Occasionally, we use eggplant instead of zucchini. Or, on a particularly hot summer day, you may catch us using lettuce, tomato, and raw onion. Bonus points if you slide a farm fresh breakfast sausage patty inside your sandwich.
How to prepare fresh picked vegetables for lunch
There are several different ways for you to use that veggie saute you made for breakfast in your lunches as well.
Give these ideas a try …
VEGGIE WRAP/SUB SANDWICH – Make a wrap or a sandwich with our veggie saute, either hot or cold. Top it with lettuce, tomato, and raw onions if you like. Add some black beans, white beans, or lentils and a little cheese if you are a bit hungrier that day, it will make it a much heartier meal.
GRILLED CHEESE WITH VEGGIES – Make a grilled cheese sandwich and stuff it full of your veggie saute. Use your favorite cheese, or better yet your top three favorite cheeses.
BAKED POTATO TOPPED WITH VEGGIES – Make a baked potato and spread some butter or sour cream on it. Then top it with your veggie saute, warm it through first. And melt a bit of shredded cheese over top if you like.
BUDDHA BOWL – These bowls can be done either hot or cold. Simply arrange a scoop of rice, one of beans, and one of sauteed veggies in a bowl, then top according to your personal preference; avocados, sprouts, nuts, seeds, and raw spinach are all great choices for this dish. Drizzle a little plant based dressing on top and you’re ready to roll.
Or you can whip up a salad ahead of time so that it’s waiting to save you from eating a snickers bar for lunch, or whatever your sugar-laden poison is.
Make a salad ahead of time …
GARDEN SALAD – Make yourself a fresh garden salad and top it with your favorite dressing. Make it with or without lettuce; your choice. But be sure to fill it up with veggies from the garden, ALL of them. And do add some beans or avocado to ensure that it holds you over until dinner.
PASTA SALAD – Fill up a pasta salad with all of the garden veggies you can find. Keep the dressing that you make it with light and refreshing. Spritz it with some lemon or lime. And bonus points if you use brown rice pasta.
Having these things ready to go in the refrigerator will help you to stay on track with healthy meals during the busiest time of the day.
How to prepare fresh picked vegetables for dinner
Dinner is sort of a big deal in our house. We love to cook, and we have more time for this meal than for others.
In the winter season it is often prepared earlier in the day. We tend to eat and then cozy in for the evening. But the rest of the year, we are late diners.
We like to take our time, enjoy preparing our meal, and then savor it in the cool breeze that evening brings. This gives us plenty of time to prepare fresh vegetables and we take advantage of it.
Here’s a few favorites in our house that are a little more time consuming to make …
STUFFED ZUCCHINI BOATS – This dish is so versatile. It can be made with just about any veggie you can think of, which makes it perfect for clearing those garden veggies from your counter before they go bad. We like to add mushrooms and black beans to ours as well. A little cheese and some fresh marinara and you’ve got one amazing meal.
FRESH MARINARA SAUCE – Marinara sauce can be made ahead and frozen. It’s really handy to have around. You can use it to top the zucchini boats above, or in the eggplant lasagna below. Or you can just toss it with the pasta of your choice and enjoy it with a big slice of garlic bread. Don’t forget to finely chop other veggies and put them in your sauce. They add a great deal of flavor and really take very little time to do, particularly if you throw them in the food processor.
EGGPLANT LASAGNA – Thinly sliced eggplant makes an amazing replacement for lasagna noodles. Give it a try. Serve a garden fresh salad on the side and you’ve got a veggie stacked dinner for sure.
And when we’re in a hurry we tend to go with dishes that are more like these …
TACOS WITH FRESH GARDEN SALSA – Tacos are a great way to use a bunch of garden veggies. Whether you make them with grass fed beef or beans doesn’t matter. Just be sure to top them with plenty of garden fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion. Make yourself a garden fresh salsa to serve with them ahead of time and they’ll be even better for it.
VEGGIE TOPPED PIZZA – Roast a pan of assorted garden veggies one evening and then use them the next night to make a veggie topped pizza. We always have homemade pizza dough and sauce in the freezer. We make it in batches and freeze it, because it is so easy to whip up a quick dinner with it. But, if you don’t have any on hand you can pick them up easily enough at the grocery store. You can decide if you want to use cheese or not. Honestly, we often skip it because the veggies have so much flavor when they are garden fresh.
VEGGIE STIR FRY – Veggie stir frys can be seasoned so many different ways; ginger and garlic, teriyaki, sweet and spicy mustard, and butter parmesan are favorites in my house. They’re pretty quick and easy to throw together and you can serve them over rice or pasta depending on your mood.
I hope your mind is swimming with ideas on how to prepare fresh vegetables from the garden. I know mine is. But then it starts running wild with those ideas as soon as I get the seed catalogs out in January to plan the spring garden. And it usually doesn’t stop until I’ve prepared the last bit of garden harvest for storage in the fall.
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