This July 6 photo, taken at the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, N.C., shows a Three Sisters Garden which is a traditional grouping of corn, squash and beans that thrive when planted together. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

This July 6 photo, taken at the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, N.C., shows a Three Sisters Garden which is a traditional grouping of corn, squash and beans that thrive when planted together. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

For easy meals, plant ‘menu gardens’ of favorite foods

If you’re looking for fresh meal ideas, consider planting “menu gardens.” Grow a few of your favorite foods together in pots or raised beds, following a theme — salad-bar fixings, for example, or pizza toppings, or juicing ingredients.

Meal preparation will be simpler, cheaper and healthier.

“Even if you have land to grow a large garden, one advantage of growing a few edible plants in a small space or container close to the kitchen is that it makes it easier to pull together a fresh recipe,” said Patrice Powers-Barker, an extension educator with The Ohio State University.

“The entire family meal doesn’t have to be created from scratch,” she said. “Make some of your easiest go-to recipes and then dress them up with fresh herbs on top, or add fresh seasonal vegetables to your traditional side salad.”

Be creative. Add, subtract or substitute the edibles you grow in much the same way you modify food recipes.

Some specialty gardens that can spice up family meal planning:

SALAD BAR GARDEN: Combine leaf lettuce, sprouts, kale, arugula, romaine, baby carrots, cucumbers, spinach and parsley in a single garden plot. Or go Asian and plant bok choy, red mustard, coriander, radish and Thai basil.

PESTO GARDEN: “Even though basil is probably the most popular leaf to add to pesto, it can be made with all different kinds of plants: parsley, mustard greens, tomatoes,” Powers-Barker said. Don’t forget the garlic.

PIZZA GARDEN: Group cherry tomatoes with onions, oregano, basil, bell peppers, fennel and parsley. The possibilities are endless.

TACO GARDEN: Plant some tomatoes in a large pot with cilantro, jalapeno and lettuce.

JUICING GARDEN: Carrots, cabbage, watercress, Swiss chard, cucumbers, sweet potato, celery, zucchini and mint. Use the mint for garnish.

PICKLING GARDEN: Cucumbers, mustard, cabbage, beets and dill.

STIR FRY GARDEN: Snow peas, Chinese mustard, green onions, bok choy, baby carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli.

THREE SISTERS GARDEN: A traditional Native American grouping of corn, beans and squash. They complement one another nutritionally as well as when grown together on the same hill.

CULINARY HERB GARDEN: Dill, thyme, fennel, tarragon, oregano, mint, parsley, sage, basil and rosemary.

TEA GARDEN: Mint, passionflower, rose hips, chamomile, Echinacea, lavender and basil among a great many others.

HALLOWEEN GARDEN: Pumpkins, squash and corn.

Want more?

“How about a Just Jammin’ garden with strawberries and raspberries?” said Dixie Sandborn, an extension specialist with Michigan State University. That would be a more permanent garden.

Or , she suggested, “maybe a kaleidoscope garden using vegetables with unusual colors? Carrots, eggplant of several colors, tomatoes — red, yellow and orange striped.

“‘One potato, two potato’ or some other catchy name for a potato garden featuring several varieties of potatoes grown above ground in wire or barrels,” she said.

Menu gardens can be fun for families with kids, Powers-Barker said. But their appeal is broader than that: “As older adults transition from serving many people to making recipes for one or two, a small garden can be a nice way to prepare meals in smaller batches,” she said.

Online: For more about creating menu or theme gardens, see this Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: http://u.osu.edu/powers-barker.1/files/2015/04/1—Theme-Garden-handout-2015-tn1zbd.pdf

For easy meals, plant ‘menu gardens’ of favorite foods

More in Life

Victoria Petersen / Peninsula Clarion
Chicken adobo simmers on the stove Monday in Anchorage.
Kalifornsky Kitchen: A dish all its own

Conjuring the Philippines with chicken adobo

Bunnell Street Arts Center Artist in Residence Nina Elder’s work is displayed on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, at the gallery in Homer, Alaska. At left are pieces from her series, “It Will Not Be the Same, But It Might Be Beautiful,” drawings of puzzle stones collected in the area near McCarthy, Alaska. At right is a drawing of frayed rope, part of her focus during her residency. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Visiting artist acknowledges ‘the brokenness but not throwing it away when it’s broken’

For Bunnell residency, artist also will look at frayed, found objects like rope and nets

A typical pesto pasta night at our house, Dec. 26, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalfironsky Kitchen: A fresh start with pesto

It’s bright. It’s green. It’s fresh. It’s cheesy. What’s not to love?

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Gone to the Dogs

Our first family dog was a shepherd sized mutt named Timber.

Image courtesy Clark Fair 
In 1920, two years after the killings in Kenai, William Dawson had a new business partner, Emil Berg. When they witnessed this bill of sale, both men signed their names to the document.
Exerting control in Old Kenai — Part 7

This is the seventh and final installment in a series about two killings that occurred in Kenai on April 8, 1918.

File
Minister’s Message: Finding peace outdoors in winter

I am a self-proclaimed “summer baby.”

Getting my ingredients ready for blueberry crumble, where the berries can be prepared right in the pan and the topping in a small bowl, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Something nice

It feels like the right time to make some of my grandma’s blueberry crumble.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: The Poe-etic potholes return

Well, 2021 has started off a bit shaky, especially weatherwise. Even though,… Continue reading

Part of the grave marker for Cleveland L. Magill. (Photo courtesy Clark Fair)
Exerting control in Old Kenai — Part 6

The sixth installment in a series about two killings that occurred in Kenai on April 8, 1918.

File
Minister’s Message: Love takes work

Love is more than a feeling or a one-day experience.

A Greek and Moroccan-inspired grain bowl made with elements of my favorite foods and flavors, photgraphed on Feb. 3, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Grain bowl goodness

I’m thinking about food as an expression of myself and an opportunity to experiment in the kitchen.

This headline about the killings in Kenai appeared in the Cordova Daily Times four days after the incident.
Exerting control in Old Kenai — Part 5

The fifth installment in a series about two killings that occurred in Kenai on April 8, 1918