Eggplant will not outsmart me this year.
Neither will tomatoes, beans, zucchini or herbs.
When I began gardening two years ago as a Green Thumb, I dedicated myself to the outdoor work of planting, fertilizing, watering and weeding. But what I didn’t realize was that success in the garden quickly turns to failure without follow-up in the kitchen.
Many times after picking, I carelessly left fruits and vegetables to shrivel unattended on the counter at home or warp forgotten in a refrigerator drawer because I was unprepared. Learning from my mistakes, I am creating a Garden Prep Journal.
I’m collecting recipes.
Eggplant got the best of me last year. I made so much Eggplant Parmesan that my family begged me not to make the recipe ever again. So I’m gathering recipes now and arranging them according to expected harvest. Strawberries and asparagus start in the front. Watermelon and pumpkins follow in the back. I want at least 10 possible recipes for everything we grow with simple ingredients that I can find in my kitchen. Starting with eggplant, I have added recipes for Eggplant Caviar, Moussaka and Eggplant Spread to my notebook. Hopefully this year, my family won’t notice how much eggplant we are eating at one time, and I can slip Eggplant Parmesan back into the rotation.
I’m also reading.
A fellow Green Thumb gave me an excellent book called “Preserving Summer’s Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, Preserving and Drying What You Grow.” When eggplant ripens faster than my family can eat it, I’ll have the knowledge to freeze some this year or try to dry the vegetable, which I’ve never done in the past.
I’m making lists.
My kitchen will be well stocked with needed supplies and fresh spices for pickling. I refuse to delay the kitchen work because I am out of freezer bags or can’t find the Sharpie pen to record information. I will have enough ice and large enough pots for blanching and cooling.
I’m marking a calendar.
A separate calendar for gardening where I can schedule chores, kitchen duty and shopping is now posted next to the family calendar.
I’m keeping a journal.
I read that Thomas Jefferson kept a garden journal for 58 years. Mine won’t be as extensive as his. The science of growing vegetables doesn’t fascinate me as much as what’s happening while we grow vegetables. He notes seeing on Feb. 28, 1782, “a flock of wild geese flying to N.W.” That’s my kind of entry. It’s short. But somehow I’m comforted by the fact that wild geese were flying over Jefferson more than 200 years ago, and they continue to fly over my garden in 2015. The Green Thumbs have attempted to keep a casual journal each year. I love going back and reading what happened the year before in the garden. It’s also a great way to occupy reluctant gardeners under the age of 15. They can write in the journal while I tidy and water the rows.
I’m expecting surprises.
My gardening knowledge and skills will never catch up to Thomas Jefferson’s. Some nights I’ll fall asleep while taking notes about canning, which I’m actually afraid to try. Some of my recipes won’t turn out this summer. Some of the to-do lists on the calendar won’t get done. And days might pass before I remember to write in my journal.
But this year, eggplant will not defeat me! My family will not get tired of eating the vegetable. I will find different ways to serve the dish at dinner. I will freeze eggplant and dry eggplant and take eggplant to the local food bank. It will not rot on my counter or shrivel in the refrigerator. My sons will crave eggplant like they crave French fries.
That’s the January plan. Let’s see what happens in July.