Variety is supposedly the spice of life. When Daddy would choose to do something others considered ‘different’, his response was, “Julie Belle, there is always chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I just prefer strawberry.”
I heard a comment the other day about those who practice sustainability must be so limited in their choices. Those words came back the other day as we were packaging up some sausage Randy made, and I had to laugh.
We Have Plenty of Variety!
In pork sausage alone, we package up: breakfast patty; plain link; jalapeno cheese link; cheese link; Italian and salami. Just the breakfast sausage alone can be used to create multiple meals – can you imagine what all the types combined could do?
We definitely rank high in ‘Variety – the Spice of Life’. The way I figure it, we could eat pork every day for a year, and not eat the same recipe twice.
But in reality, we probably eat ‘better’ than most people do. In ‘better’, I may be referring mostly to the variety of food we grow ourselves. But with our food fresh, with no added preservatives and other ‘fillers’, we probably eat healthier, as well.
Variety in your Garden
With just your garden alone, you can have a wide variety of vegetables to feed your family. Most vegetables come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. Fruits also have different ‘personalities’.
By themselves, like a sliced tomato, or blended together, such as three or more apple varieties for applesauce, you still have a delicious feast.
The Varieties & How to Use Them
These are a few of my favorite vegetable varieties, with some ideas on how to prepare them. This isn’t an extensive list, as there are just too many to name!
And because there are way more vegetables than I can list, these are just the top seven most commonly grown in a home garden. And I will say you can grow a better variety than you can find readily available in a grocery store.
Varieties: snap beans, lima, red kidney, field, great northern, butter, jacob’s cattle, rattlesnake, pinto, black, garbanzo
How to Use Them – casseroles, soups/stews, refried, fresh, red beans and rice, hummus, snap beans and new potatoes, pickled, chow chow
Varieties – Yellow, White, Blue, Red, Rainbow. Ambrosia, Peaches & Cream, Silver Cream, Country Gentleman, Blue Hopi, Strawberry Popcorn, Golden Beauty
How to Use It – fresh, whole kernel, creamed, fried, relish, casseroles, soups/stews, succotash, bread, salads.
Varieties – Marketmore 76, Boston Pickling, Straight Eight, Spacemaster, Lemon, White Wonder
How to Use – fresh; Salads; marinated, pickles; relish; chow chow.
Varieties – Clemson Spineless, Country Red, Cowhorn, Red Burgundy, Perkins Long, Emerald
How to Use Them – pickled; canned; fried; in gumbo, soups/stews, steamed,
Varieties – bell peppers; banana peppers; jalapenos, habaneros, ghost
How to Use Them – Salsas, stir fry, salads, sautéed, fajitas, omelets, casseroles, stuffed, jellies, chow chow, relishes
Varieties: Lemon, Straight-neck, Crookneck, Patty Pan, Zucchini, Spaghetti, Scallop, Butternut
How to Use – fresh in salads, Smothering, frying; canned /frozen; Squash pickle, Soup, Casseroles, Breads
Varieties –Granny Cantrell, Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, Marglobe, Oxheart Pink, Amish Paste, San Marzano, Yellow Pear.
How to Use – Sauce, diced, with chilies, salsa, paste, stewed, Bruschetta, powder, dehydrated for dry soup & spice mixes, fried Green Tomatoes, Salads, marinated
Growing Your Own Herbs
Once you have all those delicious vegetables ready to prepare, consider adding even more flavor to them with homegrown herbs.
Some of the easiest to grow are Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Cilantro, Parsley and Dill. But don’t stop there. Check your favorite recipes. Is there an herb listed in the ingredients? Then add it to the list of herbs to grow.
Tomatoes, garlic, basil and cilantro grow well together. When grown together, you have a spaghetti or salsa garden. Or, add some parsley, green (bunching onions) and lettuce, and you have a great salad garden!
Learning to Live a Simple Life Actually Offers even MORE Variety!
Even if all you have is a small garden, you still have control over the variety of things you harvest. If you choose to move more into traditional homesteading and self-sufficiency, you can broaden your choices even more.
Consider Raising Chickens
If your zoning allows, you may want to consider raising chickens. Chickens are a good source of protein through the eggs and meat.
Plus, if you don’t have a compost pile, they are what I call a ‘two-legged garbage disposal. You can feed your chickens garden weeds, fresh mown grass and some kitchen scraps. (Keep in mind, this isn’t their sole diet, but can be used as a way to stretch their normal feed rations.)
There are just as many ways to use the eggs as there is the meat. Eggs by themselves can be scrambled, poached, fried, and boiled. And then there are all the food options.
Use your eggs in omelets, frittatas, quiche, Breakfast Casserole. Chop boiled eggs for pasta, chicken, and potato salad, Chef’s Salad, stuffing/dressing, and for egg salad sandwiches.
Eggs are also used in baking and cooking. Cakes and cookies rarely do not need eggs. Even if you don’t use eggs in the bread itself, many use an egg wash for the top while baking.
If you raise chickens for meat as well, you double your dining variety. Think casseroles, baked, fried, chicken salad, sandwiches, grilled, and soups, just for beginners. And within each category, there are numerous ways to consider. There are probably over 100 casseroles alone that use chicken!
The Variety of Fresh Milk
If you raise a milk cow or goat, you usually have more fresh milk than you can process in a single day. Your options are as limited as your skill level, or willingness to improve those skills.
But don’t let not having a source of fresh milk stop you. If there is a farmer in your area that is willing to share, then that is great. If not, you can still get milk from the grocery store to make butter and cheese.
Just make sure it is not homogenized, as that process breaks down the milk fats. No milk fats = no cheese or butter.
With fresh milk, you can make butter, buttermilk, cream cheese, sour cream, soft white cheese, mozzarella, cheddars, and any other kind of cheese you can think of.
With a few supplies, culture and some rennet, you can take fresh milk from delicious to drink to any number of delicacies for your table!
And there’s Even More Variety!
Depending on the scope you want to work within, this doesn’t even cover fish and fresh meat, from beef to hunting wildlife. You garden can stretch to garden peas and all the other vegetables and fruits that can be grown.
And then, if you add in all those other fresh herbs, you really have a limitless supply of meals at your fingertips.
If you want to take it even further, learn how to use all those fresh herbs for medicinal and craft purposes. Or, work towards establishing a food forest.
With a little forethought and effort, your food variety can be virtually limitless.
Stop and Think…
When you really about it, most people cook the same things on a regular basis. If you go to restaurants these days, most of them are chains and the food is the same if you go to Dallas or New York.
Yes, you do have some regional places, but even in somewhere like New Orleans, you won’t get the same bowl of Gumbo from expensive restaurant to hole-in-the wall diner.
Every chef down there makes it a little different, and if you eat it here at Paradise, Randy will cook you up a whole different batch (and by far, his is the best definition of ‘Variety – the Spice of Life!)
Variety is all in the eye of the beholder, and this Farm Wife is certainly beholden to the variety we have here on the farm.
If I was a Poker player, I would see Daddy’s strawberry ice cream, and then I would raise him – some fresh peach, fresh blueberry, some vanilla goat milk (if I can swipe enough from Ayn), and even some butter pecan! And who knows, I may even make a batch of brownies from scratch and toss some of them in, too!
Are you looking for a good way to add some variety into your garden? Check out Joy Racicot’s new Super Easy Guide to Planning Your Garden Like a Pro!