Gardening. Canning and Preserving. Cooking. These four things make up a large part of what I love about living a Simple Life. But to keep them all moving smoothly, I have a little help. It’s called a Garden Recipe Archive.
What is a Garden Recipe Archive?
This is a valid question. A Garden Recipe Archive is a series of lists I created that takes me from what seeds I choose to plant straight to canned jars in the cellar, and the food on my table. And I use it to work backwards, even if my lists work forward.
Did I confuse you? Let me start at the ‘end’.
How to Use a Garden Recipe Archive
It all starts with a general meal planning session. In January, I sit down and think about all the meals I want to prepare for the next year. I don’t literally plan all my meals, but simply get a general idea of what I would like to make.
I then think about the main ingredients I will need – specifically the vegetables, herbs, fruits, or other growable items. In some recipes, such as salads, I need fresh ingredients. In others, I would need ingredients that I have canned, dehydrated or frozen.
Here’s a tip: Don’t forget to make notes of the sides and seasonings you may want to use. Squash Pickle is a great addition for grilled burgers or fried chicken at a picnic. And you may want to create your own seasoning blends to go in your home cooked meals!
Once I have my menu plan sketched out, I then look at what I would need to grow. This helps me to choose what vegetables, herbs, and other growable items I will need to plant.
An Example of How a Garden Recipe Archive Works
Let’s take the most popular vegetable to grow for example: the Tomato. Here is a step-by-step mini version of my Garden Recipe Archive:
Step One – My menu planning session includes recipes such as meat loaf, spaghetti, pizza, Enchiladas, Bruschetta, Salads, Baked Chicken, etc.
Step Two – Meat loaf calls for Creole Tomatoes. There are two different ways we enjoy spaghetti – with red sauce and a Bacon Tomato Spaghetti. Brushchetta is made both fresh and canned, Enchiladas need a topping of Tomatoes and Green Chilis.
Salads require two different types – cherry tomatoes, and a cherry tomato I can use to marinate. I love a side of sliced fresh tomatoes with baked chicken and other meals.
Step Three – I am going to need several types of tomatoes for all these meals. For the fresh varieties, I will need one or two cherry types for the salads; beefsteak for slicing; paste type for the sauces, and I can use either a slicing or a paste to dice and can for the Enchiladas and the diced tomatoes I need for the Bacon Tomato Spaghetti.
Step Four – using step three, I can determine I need to plant three cherry types, beefsteak or other slicing tomato, and a paste.
For the marinated tomatoes, I love the Principe Borghese. It’s a smaller tomato that works well for the dehydrating process required for the marinated tomato. I found the recipe for this in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Although I adapted it somewhat, it is still delicious and feels almost decadent to eat! (I also love the book itself!)
Step Five – I break my planting down further by looking at what will need to be canned. I know I will need paste tomatoes to make my Spaghetti sauce. It will also take a blend of paste and slicing to make the diced tomatoes, Creole Tomatoes, Bruschetta, and the Tomatoes and Green Chilis.
Knowing how I am going to eat my tomatoes (fresh and canned) helps me to determine how many plants I will need.
What About the Fruit, Herbs, and Other Ingredients?
Herbs and flowers usually become ready to harvest long before many of the vegetables. Basil, for instance, is ready to harvest within 3 to 4 weeks when grown from seed. Nasturtiums usually take 4 to 6 weeks. Leaf lettuce takes 30 to 70 days – which is roughly the same amount of time for Nasturtiums.
Flowers are usually served in fresh salads. This means your fresh salad greens will be harvested and enjoyed fresh long before your vegetables come in. However, your flowers should continue blooming throughout the spring and summer season, so these can be enjoyed for several months.
Squash blossoms are delicious breaded and fried and take 30 to 45 days to blossom. However, you need to know the difference between male and female plants. Picking too many of the female flowers may limit your squash production. You can learn more about how to determine which is which HERE.
Your herbs, if well cared for, will be ready and waiting for you to use fresh when your other vegetables are ready to harvest.
Fruits, on the other hand, often comes in when some of your vegetables are ready to pick. Strawberries produce in early June to July, blueberries from mid-June through early August, and blackberries need to be picked almost every single day for about two weeks from the middle of June to the 1st of July.
Other fruits, such as pears and apples usually ripen in the early fall. To balance both fruit and vegetables, it helps to determine when you expect to harvest each. If you grow from seed, you may be able to straddle your vegetable harvest season in between fruit ripening.
Using a Garden Recipe Archive to Keep Track
To this point, my Garden Recipe Archive was kept in a notebook. Page One was the list of meals I planned on making throughout the year. Page Two was a list of plants, a desired yield, and an approximate date of when I expect to harvest a particular plant.
Page Three is broken down into a main ingredient (Tomatoes), recipes, and any sides I may want to serve. Page Four lists how I want to can the main ingredient, and potential meals to use with it.
The last page is one where I simply jot down new recipes that look interesting and I want to try. Some recipes are written out; others are simply a notation of what book and page I found it in. There is nothing more aggravating to me than to see a recipe, and then months later decide to try it. However, I can’t remember where I found it, and take hours to search. Some searches are successful, and some are not!
Why Use a Garden Recipe Archive
You may be thinking that keeping a Garden Recipe Archive is too time consuming. But you may also end up being pleasantly surprised.
If you keep a Homemaking notebook that has a Kitchen Section, you understand the benefits it has. Having that notebook at hand makes quick work of finding any reference material you need – kitchen substitutions, pan sizes, canning tips, and more.
The Garden Recipe Archive can easily be added. When it comes time to plant, cook, and can, you have a quick reference of all your plans for the year.
And a Garden Recipe Archive can be completed in two hours or less – the perfect amount of time for an Afternoon Tea! The beauty of the Garden Recipe Archive is it can be started, and then added to as you come across another recipe you may want to try out.
A Better Way to Have a Garden Recipe Archive
I confess – I am a notebook junkie. I have stacks of them for most everything I do – work, garden, kitchen, farm, and business. I also have my go-to Have a Merry, Simple Christmas eBook printed out and in its own notebook. And I use it every year to keep my holiday organized.
But up until now, my Garden Recipe Archive was written down on a pad of paper, which I then tore out, 3-hole punched, and put it in the Kitchen section of my Homemaking notebook.
I like things to be a bit neater than that – or at least a bit more fun. When I decided to write this post, I chose to create a printable version. And that version is now available to you for FREE when you sign up for my newsletter!
The Garden Recipe Archive is a simple eBook filled with worksheets to help you plan your garden and how you plan on using all those fresh vegetables, herbs, fruit, and more. There are also a few recipes that has an ingredient that you might be growing in your garden. Are you ready for your copy? Just click the link below!
Grow, Can, Cook!
Are you ready to get a bit more organized this year in the kitchen? Then take a break. Settle in for an Afternoon Tea Break and dream about the lush garden you will grow. Taste the delicious flavors in your mind. And then start listing all the ways you can serve them – whether fresh, canned, dehydrated, or frozen.
Once you get started, you pencil will probably start flying across the pages of your new Garden Recipe Archive with everything you want to cook, can, and serve!