The garden beds are seeded, irrigation is laid and bountiful Spring and Summer vegetables are on their way! I’ve been taking stock of the kitchen to be ready for the bounty. Here are my top five favorite tools to have on hand when the harvest box veggies and herbs start coming our way. The goal? To eat ALL the veg, reduce food waste & maximize what I’m getting out of the market garden.
This is hands down my favorite kitchen tool. I love the way the rubber wipes clean the sides of bowls, jugs, plates and food processor bits. The spatula wastes not: there are no wasted smoothie sips or freshly made pesto, which means less food (and $$$) down the drain, and more nutrition in my belly.
2. Salad Spinner
One of the best things about CSA harvest box programs is getting to know parts of your vegetables you never knew were edible. Sometimes you can’t get these greens at the store. We’re talking beets tops, radish tops, turnip tops and rutabaga tops! To keep them fresh for a week or more I separate them from their rooty bottoms as soon as I get them home and throw them in the salad spinner. They get a quick cold-water rinse, spin, and then they go into an air-tight storage bag or container, and into the fridge. Sometimes I even use the salad spinner & its lid as the storage container: 2 for 1, again!
3. Storage Containers
So key! An assortment of storage containers keeps the fridge & freezer well organized, and all those veggies visibly displayed. If you see ’em, you’ll eat ’em. Glass is best: I love the humungo mason jars we inherited from my mother-in law. Smaller glass mason jars are great for dry storage of herbs. But, sustainability wise, I do believe in using what you’ve got, so I have embraced the plastic containers we have accumulated over time.
Reusable mesh bags too: My lovely husband brought into our marriage an assortment of reusable mesh produce bags. Honoring our shared values in sustainable living, I tried using them and hated them! They didn’t keep my greens fresh when used all on their lonesome. But after a renewed vow to get off plastic, and a little bit of research, I discovered that used in conjunction with big storage containers, mesh bags are great. For fresh greens like the above-mentioned rooty tops plus salad greens, mizuna, tat soi, pac choi, kale and chard I put them in a mesh bag first, then into the salad spinner. That way there’s no lost leaves, and I can put multiple types of greens in one storage container without them getting all mixed up. Added bonus, the mesh bag keeps a bit of moisture in the storage green = super fresh!
4. Blender, Food Processor and/or Hand Held Blender
Smoothies & soups are two of the easiest, and tastiest ways to glug down loads of greens. Especially if there are some little ones (or big ones for that matter) that say “yuck” whenever they see veggies on their plate. Blend any leafy green with some frozen banana and berries, some soy milk and bam! You’ve got yourself a delicious and nutritious serving of veggies & fruit. I like my stand up blender to make smoothies and the hand held blender to blend soups right in the pot. But you could get away with using the stand up blender for both.
The food processor is great for making pesto – another quick easy way to use a tonne of greenery all at once. But maybe your stand-up blender can do this too. The Food processor grating option can also process large amounts of cabbage, carrots & beets for coleslaw or salad toppings which is nice, but also doable with a manual grater.
And lastly, the vegetable peeler. We often have bulk “farmer take” veggies that us staff & volunteers can’t use up and would be destined for the compost bin. CSA members picking up their produce from the farm will be offered extras, that at times, may have evidence of soil life in them. Read: wireworm holes. Nothing the peeler can’t handle though, to make those ugly veg pretty again.
6. Mortar and Pestle
Okay, I know I said top five, but I don’t have a mortar and pestle yet, so it doesn’t really count. A mortar and pestle complete the loop in preserving the harvest for year long supply of some of the most prolific herbs that come out of the market garden: rosemary, thyme and oregano. A goal for me this year is to dry enough of these three herbs over the summer, to last the whole winter soup season. And to do that I need to be able to grind them once they’ve hung to dry long enough in the kitchen.
What’s your favorite kitchen tool?