Learning to Cook From Your Square Foot Garden
Millions of people around the world have discovered the advantages of square foot gardening, and gardeners don’t need to have attended cooking school to tell you square foot gardening provides healthy and tasty foods in a limited space. With a garden area that is just four foot by four foot square, you can harvest crops of delicious vegetables including snow peas, broccoli, cabbage, snap peas, tomatoes, arugula, cucumbers and radishes. Herbs such as oregano, mint and basil are also excellent plant choices. With crops like these, some people consider a square foot garden a super sized salad bowl! Use several of these plants to make a delicious garden salad, such as the one mentioned below.
Zesty Garden Salad
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 sprig fresh dill, chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1/2 cup sugar snap peas
- 1/3 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
- 2 cups iceberg lettuce
- Salt and pepper to taste
Tomatoes – One of the most versatile vegetables you can have in your garden is tomatoes. In addition to garden salads, they can be sliced for sandwiches or combined with other ingredients to make a fresh garden salad. For a refreshing and interesting main dish, try this simple recipe:
Fresh Tomato Pasta Ingredients:
- 4-6 tomatoes, chopped
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound spaghetti or fettuccine pasta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To prepare, simply chop the fresh tomatoes and add olive oil, lemon juice, basil and salt and pepper to taste; mix gently. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and add spaghetti; cook until al dente. Drain pasta and immediately toss with tomato mixture; serve at once, sprinkled with cheese.
Snow Peas – There are so many ways to enjoy snow peas. The easiest way is to simply pick them fresh from your square foot garden, rinse them and eat them raw. The tender, flat pods are as delicious as the pea itself. For a variation, steam the pods as you would asparagus, and then drizzle a little olive oil or melted butter over the top before serving. Snow peas best accompany light flavors such as chicken or fish. Simply boil the snow peas until tender and enjoy!
Snap Peas – Snap peas have long been considered a staple on the dinner table. To add some zing, try this wonderful minty recipe, served either hot or cold.
Sugar Snap Peas with Mint Ingredients
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3/4 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Directions: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar snap peas, green onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for 4 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in the mint leaves.
Broccoli – Broccoli tends to do very well in a square foot garden. One of the wonderful things about broccoli is that it has a long shelf life. When stored dry and unwashed in a plastic bag, broccoli can stay fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. When you are ready to enjoy it, try this easy and delightful recipe.
Tossed Broccoli Salad Ingredients
- 2 pounds fresh broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound bacon, fried and crumbled
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Directions In a large salad bowl, combine broccoli, bacon, cheese and onion. In a separate bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. Toss with broccoli mixture.
Cabbage – Another great addition to your square foot garden is cabbage. It’s great for coleslaw and side dishes, but for a heartier meal, try this slow cooker cabbage and tomato recipe. It serves eight and is easy to prepare.
- 4-6 fresh tomatoes (sliced)
- 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed tomato soup
- 1 medium head cabbage, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions: Combine all ingredients in the crock-pot. Stir to blend ingredients. Cover and cook on low until the cabbage is tender. This usually takes six to eight hours.
The Benefits of Square Foot Gardening
Square foot gardens requires much less work because the soil is loose, reducing weeding time to minutes. Likewise, the rich soil mixture and lack of troublesome weeds greatly increase the number of harvests per foot. Another important consideration is that square foot gardens are eco-friendly. With your variety of plants, include a companion plant that is a natural insect repellant (like marigolds). This process will virtually eliminate the need for artificial pesticides.
Increasingly important is water preservation. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the micro-irrigation system used for square foot gardens has the potential to increase yields and decrease water and fertilizer requirements when correctly managed. Using these micro-irrigation systems, water and fertilizer are applied directly to individual plants, reducing the wetted area since water is applied to only a fraction of the soil surface.
With square foot gardening, there is no reason not to enjoy homegrown foods any time that you want them. Eat them raw in salads or as snacks or try one of these easy recipes. A picture perfect garden can be yours with less work, less money and less space than you might imagine. Plant your garden and sit back in your rocking chair as you watch your garden grow.