Backyard bounty: Grow a garden to pair with your wild game and fish harvests

Among hunting and fishing’s many virtues, harvesting one’s own wholesome protein is a top motivator for most who enjoy these outdoor pastimes. There is a satisfactory pride that comes with being a self-provider, not to mention the endless health benefits as well.

That’s why I encourage anyone who hunts, fishes, or just likes spending time outside to consider planting a backyard vegetable garden this spring. There’s nothing better than a home-cooked meal featuring a main entree harvested from the wild and succulent sides nurtured from the soil with your own two hands.

I’ve maintained a backyard garden for at least a decade now, constantly revising and expanding my veggie compound as time, space and money allowed. Now I enjoy nearly three-dozen varieties of delicious fruits and vegetables to help supplement my family’s food supply throughout the year.

If you need convincing to do the same, consider the following potential menu items: Pulled goose barbecue over garlic-mashed potatoes; sliced smoked venison kielbasa, tossed with fresh onions and garden beans; bacon-wrapped jalapeño and dove breast poppers; Cajun catfish tacos with shredded romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes and chopped cilantro; wild turkey corn noodle soup; grilled lemon-pepper trout fillets with sliced zucchini and broccoli; hearty rabbit stew with root vegetables like turnips, beets and carrots; teriyaki duck stir fry with cabbage and kohlrabi; buffalo pheasant cutlet salad with all the fixings; and venison and rice-stuffed peppers topped with cheese and homemade tomato sauce.

Of course, all of these vegetables can be purchased at the local grocer or farmer’s market, but then again, so can the meat. However, shopping just isn’t as fun as hunting, fishing and growing. Being outside is a gift in itself, and the intrinsic rewards are endless. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to do it themselves.

Short on space? Plant a patio container garden. Short on time? Choose low-maintenance crops and plant strategically tight to limit weed growth. Be creative with what you have to maximize efficiency. No matter the layout, this do-it-yourself approach to “stocking the pantry” is not only economical, but it’s also a lot of fun and good for the environment, too.

You reduce the waste stream by skipping the packaging of produce, help pollinators by planting crops with flowering fruit, and you’re able to compost the waste scraps to create nutrient-rich soil for use in future plantings. You save money and can take great pride in providing your own bounty, just like at the end of a successful hunt.

So if you hunt, fish, or otherwise enjoy being outside, try planting a vegetable garden this year. With a little creativity, hard work and dedication, you will be reaping the rewards of your labor in no time.

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