One of the most rewarding things, about vegetable gardening is how enjoyable it makes cooking. Fresh ingredients are great, but cooking seasonally and sustainably takes cooking to a more creative level.
Before mass transit and refrigeration, what you grew was what you ate. If it didn’t grow near you, and you weren’t the king, you never tasted it. If it did grow near you, but only grew once a year, you really appreciated it the month you had it. You could go all year thinking about strawberries or blackberries or pumpkin pie, but you could only eat it when it was growing.
Most classic recipes were designed around vegetables that would be growing at the same time, others use the first vegetables of one season with the last of another. Lambs kid in the spring, peas and asparagus are the first greens to pop up, mint is an early herb, but pumpkin, goose and turkey take all summer to mature, so you ate them in the fall. You usually butcher a large animal like a cow or pig when it is colder, giving you winter stews and hot roasts. Hams however, need time to cure, making them a summer picnic food. Jellies and condiments could remind you of the past season, but once they were gone they were gone. Imported foods were a rarity. Really amazing food would be even more amazing because it might never be re-created exactly the same way again.
Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Greece, all these regional cuisines were determined by their climate, the ingredients that could grow there, and the ways creative people could imagine to combine them. Potatoes, pasta, rice, and corn do not all grow everywhere. Different herbs changed the taste of similar ingredients. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers are completely different when combined with basil and oregano than with cilantro and lime, it all depended on what you had to work with.
I absolutely love it when we can do a whole meal with little or nothing from the store. I love to walk around and look at what is ripe and think about how I can put it together. I think about what is still growing and what I will cook in the future. I think about what I will plant next season. I am always looking for new foods, new seeds, new herbs, because I want to see what I can do with them. Once in awhile, I put together a combination of food that is really good, but I know I will never have the exact same ingredients at the same time again. I can make it in a similar way, but I can never taste the exact same thing. That makes for a really great meal, and for me, makes cooking extra enjoyable.