July is when I start to feel the shift from all input in the garden to a balance of input and output. It’s not all weeding with no reward. I love the feeling of going out with my basket and coming back with good, fresh, tasty, often fragrant food. Let me show you some of what I’ve been working on.
Ahh, good ol’ zucchini – don’t leave this plant for a day or you might end up with some zucchini babies like I did! They really went wild while we were on vacation so I’ve been trying out recipes that use chopped zucchini. This allows me to use more of these giant veggies, even though they have a lot of seeds in them.
I have made zucchini bread many times over, of course. I also made a few dinner side dishes, but this was my favorite new recipe: Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with a Lemon Glaze. It was from a cookbook called The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini. I highly recommend this book. It has so many ideas, listed by vegetable, and every one I’ve tried has been good. It’s the perfect companion to a summer garden!
I grew celery for the first time last year and it was a revelation. I mean, who knew celery could be so flavorful?! I also learned that the leaves hold the most nutritional value in the plant so don’t throw them away. You can use them like you’d use parsley.
This is my favorite celery recipe so far, also from The Vegetable Butcher. You marinate the celery stalks, chickpeas, and scallions in a homemade vinaigrette then just before serving, toss in tomatoes, toasted bread pieces, the celery leaves, basil, and shaved parmesan. It was great the first day and as leftovers.
The cucumbers are loving my trellis again this year. I interplanted cucumbers, beans, nasturtium, marigolds, and a few radishes. It’s a wild mess but everything seems happy.
It’s so nice to just walk under the arch and pluck cucumbers!
Mostly I’ve been making refrigerator pickles.
We like a simple, classic dill pickle. I add dill weed and seed head, garlic, black peppercorns, and a grape leaf. Then I pack the jar with cucumbers and pour in a brine that’s equal parts apple cider vinegar and water + salt. Throw them in the fridge and you’ve got pickles in a few days. I like these because they are so crisp and fresh tasting.
Another of my favorite canning cookbooks is called Canning for a New Generation. I have shared her recipe for Persian Pickles before. I tried a new one called Indonesian Quick Pickles this year as well. It was super simple: julienne a cucumber, a carrot, and 3 shallots (I used young red onions). Stuff them in a quart jar; then mix up the brine: 4 t sugar, 1 T salt, 3/4 c white vinegar and 1-1/2 c water. Pour the brine over the pickles and let sit for a few hours before enjoying. I have tagged this my “never ending pickle jar” because I eat half the jar in a sitting then cut up another cucumber and stuff it down into the brine. By my next lunch, I have a full jar of pickles again!
I got very behind in my weeding between trips and getting bronchitis. When I finally got to weeding my onion patch, many of them came up with the weeds. So I have a huge basket of small to medium red onions. I found a recipe for Red Onion Marmalade in Canning for a New Generation. Here it is in process.
The finished product is a loose jelly texture with thin slices of onion in it. It has an interesting flavor and would make a nice addition to a cheese tray.
We had tacos for family dinner last Sunday so I also made a jar of pickled red onions. They were super easy to make and added a wonderful pop of flavor as a topping.
Now, I don’t have nectarines growing in my garden – yet. I do have two small trees that I planted last year, which are growing wonderfully though. I saw these nectarines at the store and they were so fragrant and perfectly ripe that I had to get a bag of them.
I found a recipe for Lemon Basil Nectarine Jam, which I had to try because I have so much lemon basil and no real idea what to do with it. Well let me tell you – this jam is amazing! I ate a whole jar in two sittings over vanilla ice cream.
I worked hard on my flower beds this year, starting many perennials from seed over the winter. All that work is beginning to pay off as my flower beds fill in and overflow with color and fragrance. Check out my sunflowers! They are taller than the garage, reaching up to face the sun.
One of my favorite flowers I added are these tiny violas. They are blooming profusely and in so many color variations. I picked this tiny bouquet for my mom. She loved flowers, too, like me.
I didn’t snap photos of it, but I also have tomatoes starting to come in, loads of basil, kale, broccoli, Swiss Chard, beets, beans, potatoes, and some small melons forming.
What’s your favorite new fresh-from-the-garden recipe this summer?