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Nature's Recipe: Garden Vegetables

Recipes from the garden spotlight fresh vegetable and herb flavors. Cooking time is strictly limited, or even eliminated. Seasonings are straightforward. Fresh vegetables bring the added benefit of the highest possible nutritional value, and incomparable taste. Grocery stores have mastered many things, chief among them convenience, but they have yet to come anywhere near a tomato that tastes as good as that one just picked from the garden.

Some have to do with eating them, but not all:

  • Taste. Fresh, crisp lettuce. Pungent, minty basil. Carrots with a crunchy sweetness that's almost unrecognizably better than the store variety. Snap beans so fresh they taste, well, green. Mountains of rich, creamy squash. Tomatoes that are the definition of sweet. The only thing these delicacies ask is to be prepared quickly, so as not to lose their delicate flavors and textures. Talk about tailor-made, er, grown, 20-minute food.
  • Satisfaction. As a hobby, there are few things more satisfying than growing things. You orchestrate the plan, the execution, and the rewards of your own little piece of earth. Even weeding (an unavoidable part of gardening!) brings a strange satisfaction; a bit of work and immediate, soothing results. After a tough day at the office, 20 minutes of aggressive weeding is the perfect stress-relief valve. If only it were so easy at the office.
  • Health. Remember the food pyramid? Vegetables feature prominently, only when you grow them they are more fun to eat, tasty, often even more nutritious than vegetables that have lived on a display shelf. Growing vegetables can even save you money. And all those vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals help to keep the doctor happy.
  • Control, or lack thereof. Closely related to the health benefits of growing vegetables, control in this context means you know how something was grown, and the amount of pesticides that were used (possibly none!). When eating a fresh salad using vegetables you've grown, or even more importantly, when the kids are eating that salad, it's great to know where it comes from.
  • Quantity. Each season, there's a wonderful time, usually about mid-August, when certain vegetables such as tomatoes, beans and squash, together conspire to all ripen simultaneously, overloading the table with all the fixings for huge batches of 20-minute sauce. Fill the freezer with sauce, and reap the rewards all winter with an Easy Timesaver (the work's done!) and a terrific midwinter taste of fresh vegetables.
  • Learning. One vegetable analogy is "When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you're rotten." We all get more out of life when we're learning and experiencing new things. Growing vegetables is a delightful activity season after season. Planning a garden in the depths of winter is to believe in warmth and sunshine. And for kids, the pleasure of watching their own beans sprout, or of carving their own pumpkin, is an experience they never forget.
  • Convenience. In the summertime don't think about what vegetables to eat with dinner. From the end of June through September, go see what's ready in the garden, pick it, and get started.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to 20-Minute Meals © 2003 by CWL Publishing Enterprises, Inc., John Woods, President. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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