With summer in full swing, the bounty of fruits and vegetables available is almost overwhelming.
In the past, I was not a vegetable gardener. Maybe, in part, because I spent so much of my teenage years working in my parents huge vegetable garden. While I thought the field where the garden was planted would have been put to a much better use as somewhere for a horse to live, I did really enjoy the fresh corn, peas, and green beans they raised every year.
My first house was in a development and even though I had a very sunny yard, our soil was poor because the developer stripped off all of the good topsoil and sold it. I worked for years amending the clay just to be able to grow flowers and herbs. And then I moved to the woods where I did not have enough sun to really grow veggies, so shade gardening became my thing.
Right now we’re renting, so I’m not putting in a permanent raised bed, but since I do have full sun I decided to try my hand a growing veggies because, why not???
I purchased the tall raised bed shown in the photo below earlier this year. I decided on this one because we have lots of bunnies on the property and I don’t feel like sharing. Sorry guys. I decided to start small by growing 3 different types of tomatoes, peppers, jalapeno peppers, bush cucumbers and zucchini. I’ll give you an update on my adventures in a future post.
But even if I’m not very successful, we won’t starve. Here in SE Pennsylvania, we are blessed to have lots of farmers, including Amish and Mennonite folks, who sell their produce at small roadside stands. We don’t have to drive far to find fresh fruits and vegetables to add to our dinners and we can travel all over the local area to see who has the best of what we crave.
With all of this beautiful produce to choose from, it’s hard not to buy everything in sight.
And the bounty of fresh produce, can make meal planning easy. From late spring to late fall, I truly try to ‘eat with the seasons’ and make my decision around what’s for dinner based on what is available at our local produce stands. Try to take this approach and you’ll find a reason to try new things that you may not have tried before.
In the past, I have also subscribed to a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) program where we took the risk with the farmers. Pay in advance and get a basket of fresh product each week. It was so interesting to see what we would receive and made me get creative cooking whatever we received. Doing this made me find fun ways to make patty pan squash and easy kohlrabi like potato chips with a light dip on the side.
Since cooking on the grill is our preferred way to cook summer dinners, the recipes I tried usually involved grilling all parts of our meal.
Grilling is an ideal way to cook not only meats, but fruits and vegetables as well because there is minimal loss of nutrients.
Never done it before? Don’t worry - the good news is that grilling perfect produce is easy. Here are a few helpful hints to make your fruit and veggie grilling a success.
Choose fruits and vegetables that are ripe and ready to eat. Under-ripe or overly mature produce won't work on the grill. If you can only find under-ripe produce, give it a few days to mature on the counter.
Choose fruits and vegetables that are ripe and ready to eat. Under-ripe or overly mature produce won't work on the grill.
Wash Just Before Using
For the freshest possible produce, it is best to refrigerate fruits and vegetables unwashed. But be sure to wash and pat dry before grilling.
Smaller is Better
Cut fruits and vegetables into small bite-sized pieces. This will help to reduce cooking time and ensure the proper level of doneness.
Take Their Temperature
For the best results, bring fruits and vegetables to room temperature before grilling.
Add a Splash of Oil
Brush fruits and vegetables (except corn) lightly with oil, melted butter or your favorite marinade or oil-based dressing for added flavor and to help prevent sticking.
For the Sweet Tooth
Add brown sugar to melted butter, brush over fruits and season with cinnamon or ginger while grilling. To prevent sugar from burning, brush on close to end of grilling time.
It's Hot on the Grill
Allow the grill rack to get hot before adding your fruits and vegetables. This will help seal in the natural juices without drying it out.
Use Medium Coals
To avoid burning, grill fruits and vegetables above a lightly dispersed bed of medium coals. Medium describes coals that glow through a layer of gray ash. To test for medium heat, you should be able to hold your hand over the grill for only four to five seconds.
Think Fruits and Veggies First
Because they taste best served closest to room temperature, grill fruits and veggies before grilling meat. This will allow time for the fruits and vegetables to cool so you can serve them alongside hot meats.
Flawless Corn on the Cob
For perfect corn on the cob, immerse the ears of corn (still in husk) in cold water for one to two hours prior to grilling. Then grill -- it's not necessary to remove silks -- over direct heat until husks are charred (about 15-20 minutes), turning occasionally. The moisture in the corn turns to steam when heated and cooks the corn without burning. Remember r to wear heavy rubber gloves when peeling off the hot husks and silks.
For a steamed effect, wrap vegetables in foil before grilling. Add a touch of butter, juices and herbs or your favorite dressing or marinade and you've got a great side dish. Husked and de-silked corn on the cob can be prepared this way.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy the bounty of the season? Comment below and let us know. We’d love to hear from you!