What Orchard Gardens Eats For Lunch

This season Team Orchard Gardens (that’s me, Sarah, Farm Manager, Michelle, Farm Assistant, and Ellie, our Farm Apprentice and author of Beef up Your Greens) has fallen into a delightful system of collaborative, improvised lunch making. We’ve unwittingly unearthed an obvious,  yet revolutionary style of quick cooking. Here are several factors that stand out as keys to the success of these meals in terms of ease and pleasure.
Made ahead grains and legumes.   In the morning I put some whole grains or legumes in a bowl and cover with water to soak. In the evening I drain and cook these grains and/or beans while dinner happens, then cool and bring to work the next day.   This is easily turned into a habit that doesn’t feel like extra work and makes the next meals so much easier.  I cook all my grains and beans like pasta, in a pot of water, brought to the boil and then simmered until tender, then drained.   Some grains we’ve had this season are farro, millet, kamut, quinoa, and barley.  Our legumes have included split red lentils, kidney, mung and black beans.

Pickles, condiments, kimchi and the like.  This is the real cornerstone of our cuisine.  Jars of full spectrum flavor turn an otherwise simple meal into an exquisite and thrilling dining experience.  If these flavorful additions are homemade with fresh vegetables and your own creative talents, you have a meal that seriously rivals an expensive gourmet restaurant and only takes minutes to prepare.

When abundance, inspiration and time collide (often this requires some will as well), I say make pickles.  It is well worth making the effort for this project as you will be rewarded in flavor and time saving later.  This year my household has made several variations of kimchi with bok choy, mustards and napa cabbage.    We’ve fermented turnips and beets.  We dug out Indian-style pickled eggplant from the freezer and made quick pickles from kohlrabi, carrots and radishes.  Currently there are green beans fermenting away with some dill and chili peppers.  A bit of any of these flavors added to your simple fare and you really won’t be able to stop saying how good it all is.

Vegetables.   People ask us all the time what to do with all their vegetables.   Well,  eat them, of course!  I mean really focus on eating them above all else.   We make vegetables the main feature of every meal.  Everything else will fall into place.  See what combination of colors, textures and flavors creates a spark, then chop and slice and heat.  Very little seasoning, if any, is needed, because super fresh vegetables are already delicious and you’ve got some flavorful pickle up your sleeve.  This is the largest component of our meals-simply and quickly prepared, unadorned vegetables.  They are that good.

How it works:

At lunchtime, we gather up some vegetables, often Very Ugly Vegetables left out of CSA shares. (If you are interested in Very Ugly Vegetables please contact us about a Gleaner’s Share.)  We congregate in the kitchen and see what we’ve got. Ellie brought yogurt and tahini.  Michelle has a tub full of farro and hard boiled eggs. Sarah pulls out some shelled fava beans and Eggplant Pickle.

And then, with little discussion, we begin. A few vegetables are chopped. Oil is heated, vegetables added perhaps with garlic and spice, often with just a splash of tamari and/or vinegar thrown in at the end. Grains or beans are added to heat. This concoction is thrown on plates with our eggs. Pickles and dressings are added at the diners’ discretion. And there it is. A fresh, extremely flavorful meal, packed with nutrition that required little planning and less time.

A Week of Orchard Garden Lunches in Less Than Professional Photos

Fava Beans, Sungold Tomatoes, Feta Cheese, Parsley, Mint,  Red Onion and Herb Wrap

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Cauliflower, Yellow Summer Squash, Fried Egg, Tortilla with Chopped Tomato and Cucumber Salad (salt, pepper, oil and vinegar) plus hot sauce and  tomatillo salsa from a friend.