August 2015
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Fresh From the Garden

 
  Rolley Len and Cason love to help pick the vegetables in their grandparents’ garden.

When Rolley Len and Cason go to my parents’ house in Florida, the first thing they do is hug their Nana and Pawpaw, but the second is to make a beeline to the backyard garden. On their last visit, the kids filled a basket with peppers, tomatoes, okra, squash and zucchini within a few minutes of our arrival. They have learned how to tell the ripe from the not-quite-ready and how to pop them off the plants without a grownup’s help. 

By the end of summer, even my parents’ small garden is bursting with veggies. Can you ever have too many tomatoes in your garden? Personally, I don’t think it is possible. Of all the fruits and vegetables you can easily grow at home, tomatoes are some of the most versatile and the most sharable. 

My parents share their bounty with neighbors, but have also decided they need to start canning or freezing some so the veggies will last all year. One of their neighbors has figs that reproduce as fast as Mom and Dad’s tomatoes. My parents love fresh figs, but decided to make preserves from them as well. Preparing all of their tomatoes and figs for canning or freezing takes time and space to work. Knowing they will have easy access to homegrown fruits or veggies all year is a worthwhile payoff. 

During late August and September, a lot of meals at our house are mostly vegetables and possibly pasta. Jason and I love a veggie plate with cornbread, and even the children appreciate a colorful plate of veggies, especially if they are pan-fried. But I eagerly await the fall hunting season because that equals meat for the rest of the year’s menus. Unfortunately, just as hunting seasons start, growing season starts to come to an end and our access to fresh-from-the garden fruits and veggies dwindles quickly. 

Whatever you grow in your garden during the summer months can make a perfect pairing with all of the wild game options we have in our area. From catfish to wild hog, there is a side or sauce to be made from locally grown fruits and vegetables that will enhance your next meal. Try canning or freezing your garden’s abundance to make it a treasure you can enjoy all year.

For more information on safely canning your garden bounty, visit http://www.aces.edu/home-garden/home-sustainability/food-preservation/.

Fig Salsa

3-4 ripe black figs

2 Tablespoons red onion, finely chopped

½ Serrano chili pepper, minced with seeds removed (seeds will add heat if you desire it)

1Tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

Soak onion in ice water. Dice figs into ½-inch pieces. Be careful not to squish them. Drain the onion by patting it dry with paper towels. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. If desired, sprinkle a little lemon juice or zest on top. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

Note: For fresh grilled fish, try this salsa on the side or piled on top.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil

Salt, to taste

2 cups roasted tomatoes

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Sauté onion in oil with salt until softened. Add tomatoes and stir (if using frozen tomatoes, heat until they thaw and separate). Add Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Simmer to combine flavors. Seasonings can be adjusted according to your tastes. 

Note: When I make deer burgers or meatloaf, I almost always add ketchup to the ground meat to add flavor and moisture. For me, it makes the difference between a good burger and a really good burger. This tomato sauce will work in place of ketchup for any of your recipes for ground deer meat, including sloppy joes and chili, but with a bit more flavor infused into the meat. Meat can be added to the mixture just after tomatoes are heated. If you want to save time and cleaning, cook it in only one skillet.

Easy Fig Stuffing

2 cups fresh figs

1 cup fresh dates

1 cup walnuts, lightly roasted and chopped

Mix all ingredients together and stuff into the leg of a wild boar and cook according to your boar recipe. Dress the leg with any remaining stuffing before serving.

Note: This is a very healthy recipe I found for stuffing a wild boar leg. I think it would easily adapt to other game such as duck if you do not care for wild hog. You could also serve it as a salad topping with balsamic vinaigrette dressing outside of hunting season.

Tomato and Fig Salad 

3½ cups canned whole tomatoes

1½ cups canned figs 

1 head lettuce

2 Tablespoons pecans, chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon chopped pimiento

Quarter tomatoes and figs and place on nests of lettuce. Sprinkle with pecans. Add a tablespoon of mayonnaise on top, or on side for dipping. Sprinkle pimiento on mayo.

Tomato Dumplings

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup tomato juice

Pot of chicken or beef stew, with about 20 minutes of cooking time left

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Add tomato juice until a soft dough forms. Drop tablespoon-size balls of the dough into stew for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. The pot should be covered with a lid, and the lid should not be removed until cooking is complete.

Tomato Scrapple 

2½ cups stewed tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 cup corn meal

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Mix tomatoes, onion, carrot, corn meal, sugar, salt and pepper in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook slowly until thick, about 1 hour. Beat in peanuts. Pack into an oiled pan or a container such as a baking powder tin with a lid. Let it cool. Slice and fry in a little oil, drain and serve.

Aunt Donna’s Tomato Pie

1 (9-inch) pie crust

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup basil, chopped

½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup mozzarella cheese

¼ cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 450°. Press pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan; prick bottom and sides with fork. Bake crust until lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Place tomatoes in a single layer of a colander; sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes to release moisture. Blot excess moisture with a paper towel. Arrange 1 layer of tomato slices around the bottom of the cooled pie crust, overlapping the slices. Sprinkle half the garlic and half the basil onto tomato layer. Sprinkle half the cheeses over basil layer. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, garlic, basil and cheeses. Spread mayonnaise over the top cheese layer. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.