$50 mixed boxes are becoming a popular choice at Birdsong, and from the farmer’s point of view, it’s a wonderful choice, because it allows us to sell what’s in season and in abundance…and to get people trying produce they might not be accustomed to purchasing. You also learn to eat seasonally.
For those of you who’ve tried our mixed boxes before, you’ll know you end up with quite a bit of food, particularly greens in winter, to create with. So how do you deal with it all with as little spoilage and waste as possible?
I know some of you already give some of your produce away when the box contains more than you can use, which is a great way to save spoilage.
When you bring your box home and start packing the goods away, one of the first things to consider is “what is going to need to be eaten within the next few days to avoid spoilage?” The answer to this can depend on your storage methods. For example, I don’t actually keep much produce in our fridge, we’re blessed to have the cold room and I take a walk out there before preparing meals and select from the storage tubs out there. So something like loose leaf greens…any greens really, last especially well when they’re kept in the cold room in our plastic storage tubs. But if I take a mesh bag of mesclun and put it in the produce drawer of my fridge, it’s only going to last about 2 days. Same with just about anything green and leafy. BUT, if I put a bunch of kale in a large beeswax wrap, or a glass storage container in that same drawer of the fridge, it will last much longer, as if it was in the cold room.
Some produce is going to have a very lengthy shelf life, like your root vegetables, so there’s no hurry to use them.
Sometimes you’ll get produce that can be preserved for later. Tomatoes can be canned, corn can be blanched and frozen, lemongrass can be frozen, cabbage can be fermented into kraut etc
Now, how do you incorporate more of this produce into your meals so nothing goes to waste…and it’s not just about waste, it’s also about maximising your vegetable intake!
Between salads, stocks, soups, one pot meals and preserving, you should have no problem creating with all your mixed box produce.
Salads: Often I start with a recipe as a base, but change it to suit what’s in season and what’s in the pantry. Maybe there’s a lovely dressing recipe you want to try and then you mix and match with your veg (and can toss in some roasted nuts, seeds…even fruit).
Stocks: Many of you make your own stock. We’re big fans of chicken stock made on organic chicken frames and home grown produce. Using vegetables in your stock along with the bones creates a synergistic effect where the nutrients from the veg and bones combine to give you a virtual liquid multi-mineral supplement. And you can use SO many different veg. Have a bunch of kale you won’t otherwise use? Put it in your stock pot. It will turn the broth a little green, but that’s not a problem.
Soups: Like with salads, I’ll often start with a base recipe and then vary it to suit what produce is available. Or, start with the broth and then start slicing and adding produce that I have surplus of. This is a great way to use surplus leafy greens, chilli and herbs. NOTE: Add herbs at the end of the cooking when making soup so they retain their flavour and nutrient density.
Soup can be frozen, and in this way you can be both preserving your produce and giving yourself a ready-made meal to have on hand when you’re strapped for time.
One pot meals: Maybe that name isn’t the best description of what I mean…but any meal where you are combining the bulk of the sustenance in one dish like- Stews, bolognase, pies, stir-fry, quiche etc.
Our family now expect that I’ll probably sneak chard into the bolognase, or shredded cabbage into the ‘zucchini’ quiche…or a bit of everything into the ‘meat’ pie. Actually, we hadn’t made meat pies in a long time, and then a month or so ago I made one using about 500g organic beef mince and a LOT of veg, drowned in homemade gravy (which is broth based and nutritious)…they LOVED it! There was leftover veg in gravy that couldn’t fit in the pie crust (made too much!) and the children sat at the bench with spoons devouring every last mouthful. I think that pie contained carrot, chard, onion, sweet potato and potato.
It’s usually a good idea to shred or finely chop vegetables that you are wanting to bulk up a one pot meal with.
Preserving: Ah, I love preserving/canning. It was so satisfying at the end of last summer to see a pantry shelf full of tomato preserves like paste, sauce, passata, crushed tomatoes, relish etc Now here we are at the 8th month of the year and this week will be the first time this year that I’ll have to buy tomato preserves again! But it’s not just tomatoes that can be preserved.
Right now it’s cabbage season and our $50 box buyers have probably had a few womboks come their way. Besides wombok salad, did you know you can preserve your wombok by making kimchi with it? One of our customers gave us some kimchi they made on wombok…it was absolutely delicious. Such a fresh flavour.
Sauerkraut is wonderful for using up surplus cabbage, and there’s plenty of classes and online tutorials around now. You can also incorporate other veg, like cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, carrot and more into kraut.
Beetroot can be made into beautiful relish, or kraut or a fermented beverage known as kvass.
Dehydrating can also play a part. Last summer we had loads of damaged capsicums, so I saved the good parts and dehydrated them, then grind them to powder and had homemade organic paprika 🙂