Fall traditionally ushers in the harvest season; a cornucopia overflowing with gifts from the earth is a traditional symbol of the bounty of autumn. For the backyard gardener, it’s just as important to celebrate the small harvests.
Early in the fall season, as I waited patiently (ok, perhaps not so patiently) for the gardens to grow, I rejoiced at my first lettuce harvest. It was one baby plant, only about four inches tall. Alone, it barely conjured the idea of a salad. In another corner of the garden, though, arugula reached a looming height of five inches tall. And a few tiny, tender kale leaves looked prime for the picking.
Instead of waiting for a hefty harvest, I was determined to make a small meal out of what we had. And while it was a lowly salad, it still nourished us at one meal — surely a harbinger of good things to come from the garden!
The small harvests of your garden can be just as rewarding as a giant harvest, and they require just as much creativity as their surplus counterparts. Here are three ways to make the most out of even the smallest of harvests.
Your harvest, even if it’s small, can still play a lovely role in the overall meal. Instead of planning an entire recipe around your backyard vegetables, find ways for them to enhance the bigger picture. If you’ve only harvested a handful of Brussels sprouts, toss them with a larger salad like this Warm Millet Salad. Herbs are another great example: even a small sage plant can add its flavor to a recipe like this Roast Turkey with Sage Butter and Rapini-Rice Stuffing. Or, combine similar ingredients like arugula, spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, which cook at about the same pace. I like to add these leafy greens to cooked quinoa, let them wilt, and add a little goat cheese to make a nice side dish.
Think like a chef and serve smaller, more delicate dishes that showcase your baby bounty. When you have only a few carrots to share, roast them with spices and serve them as a delicacy to guests. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box. Butternut Hummus would serve as a refreshing take on the fall gourd, and Goat Cheese and Arugula Quesadillas would make a lovely appetizer for an autumnal dinner.
Beef It Up
Add a little to your own harvest with seasonal produce from the grocery store or farmer’s market — and proudly tell dinner guests that your meal boasts seasonal goodies from your garden and beyond. Maybe you only grew four butternut squashes all season (or, like me, wound up with a good number of tiny ones, dwarfed by the three-pounders at the market!), but that doesn’t mean they can’t co-star in a butternut squash pie with a pecan shortbread crust.
Regardless of how large or small your autumn harvest, it is sure to be one of the most delicious things on the table this season. Happy harvest!