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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Produce Variety Does Matter

Frugal Kitchens 101

Home gardening is an excellent way to save money on your grocery bill.  As both a home cook and home gardener one of my pet peeves is recipes that do not tell you what variety of a particular produce or herb to use.  Variety does matter when it comes to taste and texture of any fruit or vegetable.  Some varieties are simply not interchangeable!  For example a tomato is a tomato, right?  Wrong!  Tomato varieties include grape, cherry, paste, and slicing.   Slicing tomatoes do not make good tomato sauce and paste tomatoes don't make good tomato sandwiches.  In addition to that tomatoes come in a vast array of colours when ripe ranging from green to pinkish red to orangish red to yellows and oranges and even deep purple.  Each has their own flavour, texture and aesthetically are better for some culinary uses than others.  The same thing applies to virtually every plant in your garden.  There are upwards of 20 or more different basils so a recipe that calls for fresh basil is rather vague but in most cases refers to the standard sweet basil.  Certain varieties of green beans can better than others.  The problem for many new home gardeners is they don't understand that variety does matter and has a huge effect on the end result of anything you are cooking.  They end up being disappointed because they don't get the end result they wanted

I tend to grow vegetable varieties in my garden that are expensive to buy in the grocery store.  For me that means a secret commercial variety of paste tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, yellow tomatoes.  At the moment I have 27 plants that will more than double as I start taking clipping.  Each plant has a specific purpose.  If you want to maximize your food dollars with a garden then do pay attention to the varieties of vegetables that you plant, not only for their use but as to how well they do in your particular area.  If you want to preserve some of your harvest which most home gardeners do then choose varieties of vegetables that freeze or can well.  Either way whether using home grown produce for fresh eating or preserving it can save you a considerable amount of money.

Gardening is a very inexpensive, healthy activity but you can make it even cheaper.  The more you save on the garden the cheaper your harvest is.  A few garden saving tips to help you save even more money:

  • Plants go on sale towards the end of the perceived planting season so shop those sales as often it is not to late to plant them for a harvest.
  • Think outside of the box.  If you need more growing space add hanging planters and containers.
  • Collect seeds from this year's harvest.  Any heirloom plant will breed true so always plant a few heirlooms and collect those seeds.
  • Plants grown from seed are cheaper so start your own.
  • Get plant clippings and seeds from other gardeners often for free or the cost of a stamp.
  • Always plant more than you think you will need to compensate for plant loss, inclimate weather and pest damage.
  • Collect and use rainwater for your watering needs.  Rainwater doesn't contain chlorine or fluoride so is considered the organic choice for watering and it is free.
  • Dollar stores are a good source for some vegetables seed although there may be a slightly lower germination rate.  The packets usually go 2 for $1 so they are still a good deal.
  • If you have a lot of one type of vegetable trade a fellow gardener for what they have extra of.  It works out to be a win:win.
  • Certain fruits, vegetables and herbs can be grown year round indoors using a variety of methods.  This is known as "continuous harvest" as is another way to help you get fresh produce on your table without breaking the bank.
  • Use intensive gardening methods such as square foot gardening, container gardening, small space gardening and vertical gardening.  All of these methods maximize yield while taking up the minimal amount of ground space.

If you would like to know more about the varieties of vegetables and herbs I grow please check out my gardening blog.

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