New Things

“Eat what’s on your plate.”  We all probably heard some variation of that when we were growing up.  Children don’t get to do the household menu planning, and that is a good thing.

But eventually we were on our own and free to eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  Instead of being required to just eat what’s on our plates, we could eat nothing but our favorite foods if we liked.  That is a privilege I recall abusing frequently when I was in college.

When we began gardening we grew only the foods we liked to eat.  We were beginning homesteaders, trying to become more food self-reliant.  We weren’t growing for market then, so we didn’t plant anything we didn’t want to eat ourselves.

Despite growing up in the rural South, I never had okra, grits or sweet tea until I left home.  They just weren’t part of our household food culture, even though they were staples of our larger community.  After we started growing okra here I asked my mother why we never ate it when I was growing up.  She said it just wasn’t something they ever had in their gardens in her family.  Why not, I asked.  She answered that they never grew or ate okra because her father didn’t like it.  If he didn’t like something, then they didn’t grow it.

Of course there’s no reason to waste garden space on something you know you’re not going to like.  We’ve never grown butter beans for example (better known to most people as “lima beans”), since neither Cherie nor I like them. But having said that, I also think it’s important not to be too rigid about that practice. Neither Cherie nor I liked black-eyed peas as children, so I didn’t plant any for several years. But eventually I grew some primarily as a summer cover crop.  We tried them and discovered that our grown-up selves loved them now.  They’ve since become a significant part of our garden plan.

Nowadays we try to add a few new things to the gardens every year as experiments.  We’ve discovered some great new (to us) foods that way. Our experiments with Asian veggies eventually led us to add an entire garden of them. If we had never ventured beyond the things we already knew we liked, we would’ve missed out on some delicious veggies.

We’re in the process of planning our 2015 gardens.  In addition to all the things we’ve already come to love, we’re looking forward to adding some new things as well.

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20 comments on “New Things

  1. shoreacres says:

    My most recent novelty has been the watermelon radish. I’ve never liked radishes of any sort, and always picked them out of salads. But one of the farmers at market was offering samples of the watermelon radish. The color — and the concept — appealed, so I tried them, and found them good. One of these days I may give the other radish varieties another try. Maybe.

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    • Bill says:

      We have experimented quite a bit with radishes. We tried a lot of different kinds, but ultimately ditched them all except the standard round red variety. Our current favorite is a variety called Gloriette. Having said that, we haven’t tried watermelon radishes so maybe we need to give them a try too.

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  2. pollardpainting says:

    I finally realized that a lot of the food that I didn’t like had been prepared by people who didn’t really know how to cook them. Things right out of the garden and served in a good recipe can change one’s mind. The public school barbecue that I had years ago could not by any stretch be called barbecue and is an example of how some food prejudices are formed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      Absolutely. My wife didn’t like black-eyed peas because the only kind she’d ever eaten were from a can. Canned peas are not at all comparable to fresh from the garden peas.

      I used to eat sausage biscuits from McDonalds. The thought of them now is almost nauseating. After eating quality sausage, I couldn’t stomach those things.

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  3. Joanna says:

    I never really understood what all the fuss was about with pumpkins, I never really liked them and found them tasteless, then we discovered winter squashes and that was a revelations. Next was that the seeds were edible and not only edible but tasty snacks that are good for you. Kale crisps – oh my! Unfortunately I’m still working on my husband’s dislike of Brussel Sprouts – fortunately for me, I’m also still working on how to grow them successfully in our rather short seasons. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      We quit growing pumpkins. They take a long time to mature and it’s hard to keep the squash bugs off them that long without using chemicals. Plus hardly anyone eats them any more. I didn’t like the idea of using that much garden space to grow Halloween decorations.

      On the other hand, we too love winter squash and it has been a hit with our customers. It’s not something I grew up eating or growing so it qualifies as one of those things we added as an experiment. Last year we grew acorn, butternut and spaghetti. This year we’re adding delicata. My biggest complaint with them is that deer eat them (unlike summer squash) and it can be hard to keep them out.

      Brussels sprouts are SO much better fresh from the garden. They’re one of our favorites now. I don’t know if you’ve tried the greens (they’re rarely eaten in the U.S.) but they are excellent. We had a stir fry for supper tonight featuring cauliflower greens. Mmmm good.

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      • Joanna says:

        The greens of Brussels sprouts, you mean? We had those this year, we did get that far, even if the sprouts themselves are only pea sized.

        We have tried a couple of times with Butternut squash but our season is just a little too short for them, the rest seem to manage just fine, so we stick with them. We have grown acorn, buttercup, sweetmeat, spaghetti and a few others that I can’t remember now. I like the sweetmeat for their longevity, the buttercup and acorn are delicious and the spaghetti squash although not good keepers are at least prolific and the animals like them too.

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  4. valbjerke says:

    We’ve long since discovered that when we grow things, they taste far better than ‘store bought’ anything – and the best part – if we don’t like it, there are animals that do.
    Parsnips 😖 (well I tried) – but the dairy cow thinks they’re candy. Kale, which we do eat – I dehydrate and top dress chicken and goat feed over the winter. We now plant with the animals in mind – as well as ourselves – nothing goes to waste.

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    • Bill says:

      Our animals enjoy food from the gardens too. Nothing goes to waste here either. And now that our dog is on a whole natural food diet she’s been eating a lot of peas and sweet potatoes too.

      I tried parsnips but they take so long to mature (and without great success the year I tried) that I quit planting them. I’d rather use that space for things that do better for us.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Laurie Graves says:

    Good lesson! Most of us learn to not only like but also love food we hated as children.

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  6. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    When I was a kid, we always had to take at least a bite – a “no thank you helping” – of any new food (and to which I attribute my varied taste in foods today: )

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    • Bill says:

      Same with us. My mother recognized (correctly) that often when a kid says he doesn’t like something, he really means he would prefer something else. She eventually quit making me eat butterbeans when she was convinced that I sincerely didn’t like them.

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  7. farmerkhaiti says:

    yet another way our ancestors can affect our current lives, that’s quite a story about your grandpa being the reason you never had okra!! I am glad we can open our palettes as we get older, and it seems if you put the effort into growing almost anything, it will taste good!

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    • Bill says:

      I expect that’s the reason we didn’t have grits or sweet tea either. But it’s funny how that passed down. When I was a kid my mother never grew okra in our garden (because she’d never learned to eat or grow it when she was a girl). So, many years later when I started gardening I just planted what I remembered us growing in my childhood–therefore no okra. I’m glad we eventually added it though. Now it’s one of our favorites. Last year deer wiped out our entire crop. We’ll try to do better this year. 🙂

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  8. Farmgirl says:

    I was astounded to find a few years back that my mother had never eaten kale. I guess I only remember canned veggies growing up come to think of it. Gardening has definitely increased our appetite for multiple colors and textures of vegetables, even bitter greens and hot peppers. It was fun at the farmers markets, when our daughter used to help us, to hear her explain to people what swiss chard was or sweet potatoes. I was then happy we garden so extensively and saw what result it had, our children have a much bigger view of available foods then we did as kids. And you, Bill, have inspired me to plant mustard greens! I am looking forward to it. Happy planting for 2015!

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    • Bill says:

      I hope you like them, but mustard greens aren’t for everyone. My wife doesn’t care for them, for example. I usually wait till she’s out of the house for a while to cook up a pot of them. I made some a few days ago mixed with some collards. Mmmm….

      We’re preparing our 2015 seed orders and I’m looking forward to lots of yummy goodness.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. avwalters says:

    Nobody in our family ever ate greens. I never knew why. It turns out my grandmother didn’t like them. I started growing chard a few years back, and then branched out to collard and mustard greens. I love them. I met my match at kale though–I like it but it is not well received by my sweetie. Alas. My mother came to visit and I served greens. She was in shock–this was the dish her own mother loathed? And now she eats greens, too.

    Like you, we grow what we know–and add some trial foods each year. Reading the various posts, I am even more convinced that I need a serious garden fence for the deer. Delicata is my favorite!

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    • Bill says:

      We’re looking forward to trying Delicata this year. We’ve become big fans of winter squash (we’re having a butternut squash dish for supper tonight) and they did well for us at market too.

      We love chard too, but our fall crop was a total loss this year. But the good news is I plowed it up and sowed that garden in overwintering spinach and it’s looking great.

      Liked by 1 person

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