Gardening for Nutrition: Flexible Recipes

There just never seems to be enough time to get everything done during the December holidays—including maintaining our vegetable garden.

This morning, now that the holidays are over, we decided to do a garden inventory designed to accomplish three things:
1. Find out what we need to eat right now.
2. Plan a series of meals to use these things up.
3. Determine what we need to plant seeds for for future harvests.

Please Note: Recipes are at the bottom of page.

The first planting of seeds for this garden was on August 15. We’re just planting our fourth batch of seedlings into the garden now. Each month I evaluate what we will be needing in two or three months and plant a new batch of seeds in seed trays. So this weekend we will plant our fifth batch of seeds into the seed flats.

We’ve been consistently eating lettuce for almost 3 months now and as other plants began to mature this fall we enjoyed this succession of vegetables:
-Bok Choy
-Fresh herbs
-Chinese cabbage
-English cabbage
-Sugar snap peas
-Green beans
-Hot spicy peppers

We have had three challenges with our vegetable garden:
1. A tropical storm that lasted for two weeks in September dumping 50 inches of rain on us followed by a two-week cold snap that all happened immediately after we had planted our first seedlings into the garden beds. Everything went into suspended animation and some things developed a fungus and died (tomatoes, basil).

2. Cabbage moths—whose caterpillars eat all cabbage family plants including our Chinese cabbage, English cabbage and kale. One solution that I learned during my visit to gardens in England this summer is to simply plant all of your cabbage plants in one bed and stretch a net over it to keep the cabbage moth out of contact with the cabbage plants.

3. Overabundance! We are simply producing more vegetables than we can eat. Our poor friends leave with armfuls of cabbages and lettuces.

This morning after the inventory we made a list of what we need to plant more of for harvesting in three months which includes:
-Bok Choy
-Green beans

We also decided on a few recipes that would allow is to use up what we need to use up right away:
Asian Soup.

For example lunch today was a quick, simple, delicious, nutritious, filling and inexpensive Asian style soup. Noodle-based, I added spinach, Chinese cabbage, dill, lemon juice, sugar snap peas, Szechuan spicy peppers and cilantro—all from the garden. Accompanied by crispy French bread this is a gem. We had a dessert of grapefruit from our friend Ricardo’s garden.

Tonight we are going to roast root crops from the garden (we are including two market-bought sweet potatoes):

Nutritional benefits:
antioxidants, beta-carotene, folate, manganese, fiber, vitamin C, tryptophan, mg., iron & phosphorus.
Parsnips: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, dietary fiber,
Radishes: ascorbic acid, folic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium

Carrots: β-carotene, vitamin A, dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamin B, and minerals.
Sweet potatoes: Protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene, Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron and calcium.
Shallots: Vitamin A and vitamin C.

We will also serve beet greens and spinach with nuts and raisins on the side.

Beet greens: 1 cup: Vitamin C (60% daily rec.), Vitamin A (220% daily rec.), iron (15% daily rec.) and calcium (15% daily rec.).
Spinach: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Greens and Rhubarb from the garden

Lastly, we’re going to have a traditional English rhubarb crumble for dessert courtesy of our five month old rhubarb plant.

Rhubarb: Dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A


As you can see that just the vegetables we picked today are rich in vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, carbohydrates and proteins. These are things frequently missing in the diets of villagers in developing nations–yet the vegetables are simple and inexpensive to grow. Food diversity is a major component of human nutrition. In other words, by eating a diversity of food you will be eating a range of the vitamins and minerals that you need to complement your carbohydrate and protein intake.

We very recipes based upon what’s available in the garden: stir fries are good for this! We’ve had fun searching the Internet for new recipes that can utilize our vegetables without the expense of purchasing cookbooks.

Here are the recipes that we are using today:
Asian soup for two:

2 cups of water
4 ounces of dried noodles
A teaspoon of powdered chicken soup base
1 cup of chopped spinach
1 cup of chopped cabbage
1 tablespoon of chopped dill
1 small handful of sugar snap peas
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
1 thinly sliced spicy pepper
Soy Sauce
Protein: this could be canned tuna, tofu, chicken, hard-boiled eggs

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the teaspoon of chicken soup base followed by the dried noodles. When the noodles are two minutes from being done, add the spinach, the cabbage, chopped dill and the sugar snap peas. Cook only until bright green.

Add the protein to the bottom of two bowls and pour the soup and noodles over the top. Garnish with lemon juice, soy sauce, cilantro, and thinly sliced spicy pepper.

Roasted root vegetables (Adapted from ‘How to Cook Everything’ Mark Bittman):
Cooking Time: 1 hour or more
Four servings

4 tablespoons oil, butter, or a mixture
1 1/2 to 2 pounds mixed root vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, radishes, shallots and onions, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch chunks
Several sprigs fresh thyme or tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
One head of garlic, broken into cloves
Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Place the oil or butter in a large roasting pan. Add all of the vegetables (except the garlic), along with the thyme or rosemary. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Place the pan in the oven.

2. Cook for 30 minutes, opening the oven and shaking and stirring the pan once or twice during that period so that everything is coated with oil or butter. Add the garlic and stir the vegetables up; at this point they should be starting to brown. If they are not raise the oven temperature to 450° F.

3. Continue to cook, stirring and shaking every 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender and nicely browned, at least another half hour. If the vegetables soften before they brown, just run them under the broiler for a minute or two. If they brown before they soften, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and turn the heat down to 350° F.

4. Garnish and serve hot or at room temperature.

Rhubarb Crunch:
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 6

1 1/2 to 2 pounds rhubarb (this can also be made with other types of fruits such as apples, peaches, or berries)
2 tablespoons sugar
1.2  teaspoons cinnamon
6 ounces of flour
1 1/2 level teaspoons baking powder
4 ounces butter
4 ounces brown sugar
1 to 2 ounces chopped nuts

1. Chop the rhubarb into 1 inch slices and put into a well greased pie dish.
2. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon to taste.
3. Mix the flour, butter and brown sugar until like breadcrumbs.
4. Stir in the chopped nuts and smooth down over the rhubarb.
5. Placed in the center of a hot oven (425 to 450° F.) for 30 minutes—check to see if done with a fork
6. Serve hot or cold.

Beet greens and spinach with nuts and raisins.
2 cups each of chopped beet greens and spinach
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup raisins or currants
1/4 cup almonds or cashews (or other local nuts)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic until it softens (2 to 3 minutes). Add the beet greens and spinach and cover the pan stirring frequently until the greens have become bright green but are not overcooked. Stir in the raisins and nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Learn how to grow nutritious vegetables with your community in our online grassroots course:
303. Food Security, Nutrition, and Home Gardens 1 

What’s happening in the region where you live?

Please write us with your stories, thoughts and comments through or post them at our Facebook Page, or on the Center’s Blog.

Be sure to visit CSDi’s Development Community. Join 600 colleagues in sharing resources & collaborating online.
Tim Magee, Executive Director
Would you like to subscribe to this newsletter?
The Center for Sustainable Development specializes in providing sound, evidence-based information, tools and training for humanitarian development professionals worldwide. CSDi is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.