When I think “make it local,” I think “make it in my own backyard.” While supporting local businesses and farmers is one of the best ways we can contribute to the health and diversity of our community, taking advantage of the space around us to grow our own food, or make our own artwork, or produce our own goods, can be a huge step toward frugality and self-sufficiency. And, in some ways, it forces us to get creative with the materials that are around us rather than going out and spending money on something generic from a big box retailer.
I don’t consider myself a locavore or a backyard homesteader by any means, but I do try to buy local, and to provide for myself more often than not. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to go about doing this is by growing my own edible garden. I don’t own a lot of land, but I find that using the space I have to grow fruits and vegetables helps cut down on costs for fresh, delicious, and organic food. Plus, I find that if I put a little effort into planning the layout of my garden, I can effectively take advantage of every inch of space I own to grow as much as possible.
My goal with gardening is to harvest and preserve enough food to last me through the entire year and into the next growing season, and despite the fact that we have a small yard, I find that a little goes a long way. Even back when I was living in an apartment, I was able to grow several containers full of vegetables and herbs on my patio and windowsill. I eventually learned to cook meals based on what I had growing, which meant I had fresher, tastier ingredients to work with, and I knew exactly where they were coming from. Sometimes even a few plants can make a noticeable difference.
One hidden benefit to growing your own food – and this is something I never expected when I first started gardening– is the joy that comes from sharing your harvest with others. For instance, I love making pickles. I pickle cucumbers, beans, carrots, and anything else I possibly can. This means that when birthdays or holidays come around, instead of racking my brain for gift ideas only to fall short, I like to give away my homemade pickles and preserves. So not only am I able to grow food for my family in my own backyard, but I’m also able to produce awesome homemade gifts from right outside my door. It’s a win-win situation.
Right now, radish season is upon us, and they’re growing like crazy in my garden. To keep up with the harvest, sometimes I have to get creative with the recipes I use so I can make my produce last as long as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available that home gardeners can turn to for recipe ideas and food preservation. For instance, if you do a search on the internet, you’ll find several recipes from reputable sources for pickled radishes.
Of all the pickled radish recipes I’ve tried, I tend to gravitate toward those with a sweet and sour brine. I think it complements the peppery flavor inherent in radishes very well, and makes them taste especially delicious as a cold and crunchy component in sandwiches, or over crackers and cheese. Here is one of my all-time favorite radish pickle recipes:
Sweet & Sour Radish Pickles
1 bunch radishes
1-2 teaspoons salt
½ cup white distilled or rice vinegar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Remove the stems from the radishes (set aside the leaves), and rinse them free of any dirt and debris. Slice radishes into thin rounds, discarding the tough ends, and place slices in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of salt and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse and drain radish slices, and then pour into a sterilized wide-mouth jar.
To make the brine, combine the vinegar, sugar, water, and peppercorns in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved, and bring liquid to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes. Pour brine in jar over radishes.
Cover the jar, and let sit until it cools to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 months, and serve in sandwiches, over cheese and crackers, on hamburgers, etc.
When it comes to radishes, I try to make the most out of the entire plant. One thing a lot of people aren’t aware of is that radish leaves are edible, and they’re especially delicious when harvested young. You can eat them straight-up in salad, sandwiches – and this is one of my favorite things to do – you can make apesto with the leaves to mix in soup, pasta, or as a sauce on homemade pizza. And, of course, you can bottle up both the pesto and the radish pickles with pretty decorative paper, twine, and tags to give as gifts for holidays and birthdays. Your radish-loving friends and family members will love it!
Radish Leaf Pesto
1 ½ to 2 cups radish leaves, washed with stems removed
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1 clove garlic
2-3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Blend together and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or store in the freezer.