If you’re new to vegetable fermentation, you likely look at recipes and think, “Can it be that easy?” This instantly leads to the terrifying thought, “It can’t; surely I’ll get it wrong.” So to kick off this month’s recipes for vegetable ferments, I offer my most foolproof recipe for your first foray into fermentation. Here, the carrots actually aren’t fully fermented; they sit barely long enough to kick off the process. Still, they use a lot of the techniques that apply to full fermentation of other vegetables: salting, weighting to encourage the carrots to release even liquid, and a rest period to pull even more water and sugars from the produce. Because these carrots are prepared as thin ribbons, it’s easy to open the jar and slide a few onto a sandwich, into a sourdough pita, or straight into your mouth. The recipe is so simple that while you’re at it, you might as well prepare your own horseradish to go in the jar—especially if you’re growing it.
Learn to make Barely Fermented Carrots and Horseradish Paste
If you grew up eating mushy cooked carrots from a school cafeteria or overworked mom, you’ll probably be tempted to skip over this recipe. I urge you to give it a chance. Carrots cooked in an open pan and glazed by a little butter and sugar remain bright and crisp-tender, like properly cooked pasta or Grilled Asparagus, with just a hint of bonus sweetness. Try it once, and you’ll never boil carrots again.
Although the recipe works with any carrots—store bought or homegrown, baby carrots in May or storage carrots in January—it shines in August. The carrots I pull in late summer are finger thick, crunchy, and naturally sweet. Best of all, they come with gorgeous green, feathery tops that can be mixed into a tasty, herb-heavy salsa. If you aren’t growing your own carrots, ask your farmer to leave the tops intact and use them the day you pick them up at the market or receive your CSA share.
Learn to make Glazed Carrots and Carrot-Top and Herb Salsa
Amid summer’s bounty, as I haul bags and boxes of produce from garden to kitchen, I always want more. I clean and trim and slice and wonder whether each root tip and leafy top that lands in my compost bucket could find its way into a dish or jar instead. The nose-to-tail approach to cooking meats could be called tip to top for vegetables and fruits, and that remains my goal throughout the growing season. It’s a goal that aligns nicely with this week’s challenge for the Montana Local Food Challenge.
Some of your harvest lends itself easily to the idea: people eat beet greens as readily as beet roots. Others seem obvious when you think about it. Like peas? The shoots carry a similar flavor and can be turned into pesto or simply mixed into salads. Grow storage onions? The green tops can be used like scallions and even lightly trimmed while the bulbs are still growing. And the classic processed watermelon rind pickle can be ready to eat alongside the juicy pink melon.
Learn to make Quick-Pickled Watermelon Rind and Watermelon–Feta Salad
When the garden is in full swing and sailing season is on, one of my go-to meals is a stir-fry. In the time it takes to cook a pot of rice, the rest of the meal can be chopped, cooked, and ready to serve from one pan as a single-dish meal. In spring, asparagus, early onions, young garlic, snap peas, spinach, and herbs dominate the stir-fry; at the height of summer, freshly harvested onions, peppers, carrots, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes take over. By late summer, corn, eggplant, and fall broccoli and peas are ready to mix in.
When you’re rich in a particular vegetable, you can let it solo in a stir-fry, backed by aromatics such as garlic, ginger, and chilies. But my favorite stir-fries are created with dibs and dabs of many vegetables and a protein such as tofu. To guarantee success, fry quickly, at high heat, in an order that lets the ingredients brown evenly, with plenty of movement. It’s in the name: stir and fry.
Learn to make Fresh Improv Stir-Fry and Pan-Fried Tofu