As Good As a Bought One!

dianaI'm not a naturally envious sort of person but when a friend from the big smoke invited me to dinner last week, and didn't begin preparing the meal for eight until an hour before we were due to eat, I did feel the green-eyed monster hover above my shoulder.

It was all so easy for Liz. She simply opened the door of the pantry and took out the pre washed spuds and carrots. Next stop was the fridge for the packaged diced parsnip and the bag of ready-to-use washed (and chlorinated!) mixed salad greens. The garnish for the fish (which she hadn't caught herself) was snipped from a little pot of living herbs on her window ledge, and the pears for desert came from the produce section of the supermarket rather than a home-preserving jar. Beginning to get the picture?

It's very tempting for we lifestyle blockers, when cold and muddy winter comes along, to side step what we've spent all summer growing just because it has some dirt on it, and instead, go for a quick fix of pre-washed, top and tailed vegies from the supermarket shelves. Unless, that is, you use your secret weapons. Among the arsenal I employ to make sure I use the fresh vitamin and mineral-packed produce I grow, are my knife and basket, pretty plastic laminated apron, scrubbing brush, and bucket of warm water.

I keep these items in a handy place where I know I can find them without a search. Twice a week, at a time when it's not raining, I venture out into the vegie beds and collect everything I'll need for the next 3-4 days. Root vegetables get top and tailed, scrubbed clean in warm water, then dried and placed in a mesh bag which I hang in the porch. Greens get trimmed and popped into ice-cream containers to be stored in the fridge. Herbs go in glasses of water inside the house or are snipped into resealable plastic bags for cold storage. Waste goes straight into the compost heap or is fed to various animals.

It's a nasty job and I don't like doing it, but when meal time comes around, preparation is a breeze. If I close my eyes, I can even imagine that the fruits of my labour come straight out of a supermarket except that they taste a whole lot better, cost a fraction of the price and, when we do have friends around for dinner, the compliments flow faster than the home-made wine!

Tip for the table: herbs, such as parsley and coriander, freeze well. Chop and free-flow them for a quick handful of fast flavour.
Chooky-treat: Promote egg laying by incorporating into your food-gathering routine the boiling up of root vegie trimmings with the outer leaves of brassicas (cabbage, cauli, and broccoli). Feed this mash, warm, to the chooks.

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