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Salads as an analogy for homesteading.

Homesteading is like making a salad.

Salads are inexpensive, healthful, and simple. There are no rules, so it's hard to make a mistake. And there are endless possibilities for combinations and creativity.

Just like homesteading.

Add the potential for growing vegetables or varieties that aren't available in stores (or are expensive if you can find them), the necessity to plan ahead for best results (you start making summer salads when you order seeds months in advance), and the inevitable gluts and shortages and other problems that beset not only all gardening, but all of homesteading--and you can see why making a salad can be compared to homesteading itself.

To the homesteader, a couple of leaves of lettuce are hardly worthy of the name "salad. " On the other hand, a complicated recipe for a fancy "uptown" salad is hardly worthy of the busy homestead kitchen. But a stroll in the garden to see what's available and prime--that's how you make a salad.

And that's how homesteading is.

Beyond the plate of naked lettuce lies an abundance of possibilities. Not too terribly long ago, "homegrown lettuce" almost always meant leaf lettuce, and most often that was black-seeded Simpson. While it still takes a little extra skill and effort to produce crispy head lettuces in most climates, the recent interest in mesclun mixes has brought to our gardens (and tables) a variety of leafy greens we never dreamed of a generation ago. Along with cos (or romaine) and Boston (or butterhead), there are not only numerous other leaf and head lettuces, but radicchio and other forms of chicory, many kinds of spinach, and a wide choice of other greens.

Naturally, homesteaders make use of the normal toppings usually found at salad bars, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, onions, and bell peppers. But when you shop in your own garden and eat with the seasons and according to what's available, the onions might be red, white, yellow, or sliced scallions; peppers might be green, red, or yellow of several varieties; radishes come in red, black and white, with equally diverse flavors.

But then, how about adding a handful of succulent just-picked and shelled peas? Or sugar pod peas, tiny green beans, or broccoli or cauliflower florets? Salads are a great way to stretch those teeny carrots that result from thinning, or the little broccoli nubbins that appear as side shoots after the main heads are harvested.

For further variety in flavor, color and texture, try some very young summer squash, such as patty pan, or even tiny zucchini, diced or thinly sliced.

For very early or late salads, add diced or thinly sliced Jerusalem artichokes. Late season salads can be spiced up by garnishing them with a few pods of radishes that went to seed but were left in the garden just for their pods. (Rattail--an oriental seed pod radish grown just for this purpose--is available from Pinetree Garden Seeds, Box 300, Gloucester ME 04260.)

And speaking of oriental--the recent surge of interest in and availability of many kinds of oriental vegetables can elevate your salads to new heights. Again check out Pinetree for their pak choi-mei-qing, Kyoto mizuna, and daikon radishes.

Avid gardener-chefs will use nasturtium leaves and comfrey, and wild food advocates will watch for everything from dandelion greens to wild mushrooms. . . just as some homesteads are somewhat exotic, while others are more wild and primitive.

While the possibilities with these ingredients are unlimited, they can be expanded even more with the addition of grated homemade cheese, sliced or chopped boiled eggs, and leftover ham or chicken--all from the homestead, of course.

And if that still isn't enough, sprinkle some toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds on your creation.

Last but not least, seasoned croutons, made from homemade bread that's left over when you make the next batch, will help to make this truly a one-dish meal, and a homestead one. Cut bread into cubes (whatever size you like), toss them in melted butter with herbs and seasonings of your choice, and bake them on a cookie sheet in a 300 [degrees] oven until they're just toasted.

The final flourish

You wouldn't want to sully this totally homestead creation with store-bought dressing. Even if oil-and-vinegar is your preference, that's not always the ideal choice, or you might tire of it. (Try homemade herbal vinegars.)

But making your own dressings is much simpler than most people realize. You don't need a recipe--but here are some ideas to get you started.

French Dressing
2/3 cup oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
or lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
Mix in a blender or shake in a jar.

Belle Dressing
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
2-3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Mix in a blender or shake in a jar.

Instead of salad ingredients, substitute country projects and attitudes, and you'll have a great recipe for living beyond the sidewalks.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:making salads from garden vegetables
Author:Belanger, Jd
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1997
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