Valuable and useless vegetables

16 June 2020
We're learning hard lessons lately. The ongoing drought and coronavirus have taught me that to be resilient enough to bounce back time and time again, I need to strengthen my systems, learn as much as I can about what I want to do here and then put in the work to make it all happen. We have recently gone from a very productive vegetable, herb and fruit garden to a much smaller setup of flowers, herbs, fruit and a couple of vegetables. When I work through this season and my new systems start to evolve, those hard lessons might save me in the future.

One of the lessons I stumbled across years ago was to only grow the fruit and vegetables we eat. Even though it's enjoyable and rewarding, gardening is time-consuming and can be difficult at times, even for experienced gardeners. Growing vegetables that look different but are harder to grow isn't worth the extra work when you can get the result you want with something easier.  For instance, a few weeks ago I found a few vines I hadn't planted starting to colonise a large area around one of the roses. I thought it was a cucumber and left it to see if we could use it.  When it started to flower, the flowers were smaller than the cucumbers we usually grow but I let it mature to see what it really was.  This is it below - an African horned cucumber. The seeds were probably dropped in our garden by visiting birds.
Apparently, the skin goes yellow when it's mature and it's FULL of seeds.  It tastes like cucumber but the horns are spikey and there are very fine prickles along the stems.  It's very difficult handling it in the garden so all the vines were pulled out.  Good riddance to bad rubbish. In a few weeks time, when I'm ready to plant cucumbers, I'll choose a delicious apple variety, either Crystal Apple or Richmond Green. Both are well worth growing.


We did use many other fresh vegetables in our meals this week.  We have a newish supermarket close by called Fresh and Save and they have great bargains most weeks.  This week they have many vegetables for $2 each or per kilo, such as red or green cabbage, broccoli, parsnips, mandarins, apples, grapes and pineapples 2 for $2. Last week I got some very fresh zucchinis and leeks there and made this zucchini slice, which was really delicious, even if I do say so myself. 🙄   




I made a big pot of vegetable soup yesterday and that should keep us going for another three days. Made with beef marrow bones, beef, onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, swedes and parsley, this soup is nutritious as well as being a flavour bomb. Having some of these healthy meals in your meal rotation gives you the nutrition you need without having to look for recipes. This soup cost about $15 to make - taking into account the bones, beef and vegetables, the herbs came from the back yard. Not bad - $3.75 for a main meal for both of us.

What are the repeat meals you make in your kitchen that your family love?

25 comments

  1. I have never heard of this cucumber. Amazing that it landed and started growing. Definitely going to try the soup as we love your pea and ham recipe. Xx

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  2. My absolute favorite is a pumpkin soup a friend made for me and now I make a big pot eat it for a couple of days but freeze plenty. It sounds weird but I get chunks of ham and lightly fry in a stockpot. Add cubed pumpkin then add water 3/4's up the pumpkin then bring to slow boil. I then peel and cube green apples(3). Just as the pumpkin begins to soften add the Apple. Simmer until it starts to go translucent. Take off heat and gently use a potato masher on the pumpkin. Serve. It is salty(ham) sweet(pumpkin)and tangy(apple). Weird but yum and so easy.

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    1. Do you use a small pie pumpkin for this? It sounds tasty!

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  3. We are just about to finish off a pot of vegetable soup with real chicken stock. Also added a good handful of red lentils to thicken a bit. Also a tart/fritatta / pot pie - whichever - goes well here. I love knowing all about my food choices. Interesting cucumber!

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  4. I second only growing what you love to eat. Vegetable gardening requires not only time and precious water. So important to be wise with our limited resources. Here in Northern California, our veg gardens are just starting to mature as we are on the cusp of summer. I have Swiss chard and tree collards (these I have year round) to harvest. Beans, tomatoes and peppers are just starting to flower. Fruit trees are producing plums, apricots and loquats. Since we only grocery shop every 3 weeks, keeping a variety of fresh veggies on hand has been challenging. In addition to the freezer packages, I rely on winter squashes, broccoli, carrots and cabbage - lots of cabbage, which keeps so well and is so versatile. For repeat cooking I rely on great crock pots of beans - black-eyed peas with smoked turkey and black beans with lots of onion and garlic are our favorites. And when I am not sure just what to make for dinner, I spin the "Google" wheel - I put in the ingredients I have on hand and let Google find me a recipe for something I might never have tried. We have had some great meals this way and my cooking has broadened!

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  5. Hi Rhonda,
    some of our 'go to' meals at this time of year include barley stew, Greek white bean stew with lemon-spinach rice and chick pea curry. I do a lot of apple or pear crumbles too, so quick and so delicious with warm custard. I love black-eyed beans also, even the bean haters seem to enjoy them!

    Madeleine

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  6. I too went to the same shop and saw the specials! But I had just been to the little fruit shop at Peachester. We are having solstice this week so huge pot of minestrone and sourdough bread by the camp fire with some close friends.

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  7. What a prehistoric looking vegetable. I agree grow things that are quick and easy.

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  8. Our favourite repeat meals are soups, so versatile with any ingredients to hand, we love minestrone, any veg soup, chicken broth and tomato and red lentil. I also make lots of 'warm' salads, using our homegrown lettuce, rocket, spinach, chives etc and I top it with a selection of hard boiled eggs, bacon rashers or lardons, cubed cheese, walnuts, pecan nuts, home made croutons etc. So blessed to have lots of produce from the garden.Winter favourites are casseroles that last several days and then provide the base for a soup.

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  9. What strange cucumbers, they really are different! My utility room window and wall has been taken over by baby snack cucumbers. They were meant to go in the greenhouse, but are thriving, so I will let them stay. Afraid of moving them too, as they are many metres.
    Cottage pie, homemade chicken/ beef soup, homemade pizza, taco and homemade fishcakes and meat cakes are often repeated meals at our house. Blessings, Pam in Norway

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  10. Our evening meals during the week include our grandchildren which makes it interesting to find things everyone enjoys. French toast and fruit or pancakes and eggs are always a hit . Did your veggie bake have a crust please?

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  11. That's a beautiful but prickly looking cucumber. I grow what is expensive in the stores: cherries, artichokes, lemons, persimmons, pomegranates and rhubarb. I miss having zucchini this year. I may try again. My seedlings were eaten by a rabbit, I think. The repeat meals that I make are: spaghetti with meat sauce, buffalo steak and baked potatoes, roast chicken and vegetables, bone broth and daily salads. I have pasta with pesto quite often, too. There have been many lessons with this virus and all that has been happening in the world. My main one has been to grow more food, spend as much time in nature in possible and to keep the stockpile replenished. Cleaning my house and fixing everything has become a top priority. Thanks for all that you have taught us, Rhonda.

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  12. We are discovering a few surprises in the garden - so far pleasant (like spaghetti squash:-) I could eat soups a lot, but hubby only in cool weather. Soup bones are very inexpensive and so good to add to those soups~

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  13. That is an unusual cucumber! I grow Lebanese cucumbers here. They are easy to grow and taste amazingly fresh and are so crunchy. They are our favourite cucumbers and store-bought ones just do not compare to homegrown ones.

    I make zucchini slice often here too, Rhonda. I sometimes make a large tray of it or make it into individual muffins which are nice to have with soup or as snacks spread with some butter. Meg:)

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  14. Your zucchini slice looks yummy. Chicken tortilla soup is a real favorite here and all of the ingredients just get tossed in the slow cooker and left to cook which is my kind of dish! We eat it as soup and also over rice with cheese on top. My husband loves any pasta dish so I make sauces ahead and freeze them in meal size portions to pull out and make an easy meal anytime.

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  15. Hi Rhonda , hope you are both well , like you I make lots of soup ! Today it will be chicken vegetable , yesterday I bought a cooked chicken from Hill Street which is an I G A supermarket here in Tasmania .I take all the skin and bones and make stock . My vegies come from a local farm , so we have potato , sweet potato, onion,swede , leek , broccoli stalks , celery carrots and zucchini . We had roast vegies with part of the chicken last night . I will make chicken and mushroom vol-au-vents with half of what is left and a chicken vegie pie with the remainder ! Way to go !
    It's a beautiful sunny day here so I must get outside for some fresh air
    Take good care of each other x

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  16. Hello Rhonda, I have not heard of Apple cucumbers, since leaving NZ 40 years ago. Was not aware they grew here in Qld. Much nicer last than green ones. Is it possible to let me know where to buy the seed. Thankyou. Sandra K

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    1. Hi Sandra. Both Crystal and Richmond Green seeds are available at Diggers Seeds.

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  17. I am so lucky that my children are not fussy eaters at all and eat everything I cook and put in front of them. We have soup twice a week all year round here, it is cool enough in the summer to still enjoy it then. The variations for us are the vegetables I use as they are very seasonal here. We also have pie night once a week, again varying from season to season depending on the veggies that are available locally. At the weekend we have Dahl for dinner (meal in the middle of the day) on a Saturday and on Sunday evening a rice based dish usually with something spicy/Asian inspired. It makes my meal planning much easier to have these regular dishes.

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  18. I had to laugh, Rhonda, over the title to this post: Valuable and Useless Vegetables. I would suppose any vegetable would be valuable to someone, but there sure are some strange ones out there indeed! It is important to choose and grow what you like and will use. I found when I first started gardening years ago that no matter how pretty they are, I will not be using eggplant or collards; so to me I guess they are in the Useless category. I just don't eat them. We love mixed lettuces, parsnips, carrots, tomatoes, bok choy, peas, and radishes and potatoes. So that is what I grow. I'd love an asparagus patch, but don't have much room. At least it is not Useless!

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  19. Sounds like something we wouldn't want to get loose and become feral, our garden is a smaller version of yours now Rhonda and it is amazing what we can grow in our tiny 'potager'. I try to grow only what we will eat and what looks lovely to us and the pollinators,plus a few extras in pots. Our meals seem to rotate through the weeks,and as there is usually only two of us most recipes feed us at least twice,much appreciated by the chef!! We always end up drowning in zucchinis in summer and love the slice but need a break over winter where a favourite is spinach,ricotta,filo pie. Love the idea of using the muffin pans to make pie and frittatas in. Take care everyone 🙃

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  20. When we have a roast chicken I make it last as long as possible. Day one is a roast meal for the two of us, on day two I strip the rest of the meat from the carcass, this is used to make a risotto for that day and then a chicken and veg pie which feeds us on days three and four. All the bones are then boiled with some veg to make a rich and tasty stock. I usually managed to get 4 pint jars from the bones. These I can. One of which will be used as the base of the risotto from the next chicken the other three as the base of a tasty soup.
    I buy a good quality free range organic bird and imho it works out as a good value food source when used this way.

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  21. I always try and grow tomatoes just because its so fun to see them grow all rosy and red and wild on the vine. I don't eat tomato haha I guess I can can them but I never seem to do that either, most are given away. I am growing peas at the moment as in Canberra its one of the few things that survives winter but even they aren't doing well. My first ever garlic just popped through so fingers crossed!

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  22. Just made a huge pot of soup of mishmash leftovers. Put in a ham hock and added curried chicken, spinach and tomato cooked in butter, kofta balls, can of creamed corn and corn kernels, carrots, potatoes, chicken and vegetable powdered stock - it was a flavour bomb

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  23. We tend to go the other way at our house, and "eat what will grow"! I started vegetable gardening because I wanted to grow pumpkins, but sadly they are hard to grow in my area and I have never had any set fruit. That same year some of the mustard seeds I planted for a green manure crop did surprisingly well, considering the majority of the seeds didn't germinate. I let them grow and self seed, no green manure to dig into the garden, but I have had mustard greens for our table every year since! Silverbeet/swish chard does extremely well in my current garden, as do spring onions, mint and parsley. So I let them grow wild and rambunctiously, putting them into every dish I can. I also pick dandelions, mellow & wild rocket from the large common area behind my house and use them along with tri-sided leak, to make a type of spanakopita. Tri-sided leak are a type of onion weed that grows very well here, and has become my favourite allium, I eagerly await the season each year. This year I dug up a wild patch to transplant into pots, so I can keep growing them where ever I live in the future.

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