Garden Talk: Getting creative with homegrown vegetables

There is nothing better than walking out to the garden you have planted, tended and watched grow –  and picking something to have for dinner. It brings a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
This is the start of my new garden column bringing you recipes and tips for using those delicious foods you can grow in your garden.
I will feature some of my favorite ways to use the vegetables I grow, as well as ways to preserve those foods, so you can have the fresh taste of summer all year long.
I will start with a look into one of vegetables that is not as common in a home garden. I began growing celery three years ago. While it doesn’t get as big as the  stalks you buy in the store, it has a great taste.
Celery does take a while. I start my seeds right after the first of the year in the house, then they are ready to transplant by spring. They need a lot of water, otherwise they get bitter. I also have found they prefer a little shade in the afternoon. Planting my celery directly east of my asparagus provides that needed shade.
Once the celery stalks are at least six inches long you can start harvesting.
I like the stalks best when cooking with them, but I have snacked on a few along the way. Be sure to find the most tender ones to snack on so they aren’t too stringy.
Now once you have enjoyed those celery stalks, don’t waste the leaves. You can snip off the leaves and save them to dry. I also harvest the celery a lot of times just for the leaves. A few hours in my dehydrator and the leaves can be stored in jars.
I always take a few and grind them up and add them to a little kosher salt: about 2/3 celery and 1/3 salt, but you can adjust to your taste. Put it in a shaker and you are all set with your own homemade celery salt.
It’s good as a seasoning in any recipe that calls for celery salt, but one of my favorite ways to use it is to sprinkle a little on my eggs for breakfast. It adds a great burst of flavor to the eggs. Just don’t overdo it. A little goes a long way.
As for the rest of the leaves you dehydrate, save them to make more celery salt when you run out, or crush them up in a recipe that calls for celery.
If you can’t keep up with all of the stalks, chop them up and dehydrate them as well. Make sure they are crunchy before you store them away so they don’t spoil. I’ve used the dried celery stalks in such things as homemade sloppy joes and stews. They rehydrate and taste as fresh as ever.
Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!IMG_2914