I grew up a mile away from my grandparents who were both born and raised on farms. They always had and still have a huge vegetable garden each year—this is one of their legacies that I most treasure.
I am doing my best to follow in their footsteps, although my gardens are more experimental learning grounds than bountiful producers at this stage. Nevertheless, a few times each summer, I have enough ripe vegetables to comprise a whole meal! As my knowledge base grows, along with my garden, I hope that one day “dinner from the garden” will be a regular fixture in my home.
As I savor the anticipation, here are some “dinner from the garden” ideas for your consideration:
- Corn on the cob, green beans, and ripe tomatoes—This was my sisters’ and my all-time favorite dinner from the garden when we were growing up. The sweet corn has to have come directly from the garden. The tomatoes too must be freshly picked and perfectly ripe. And, ideally, the green beans are cooked home-style: sautéed with chopped bacon and onions. For a delicious twist, try roasting the corn on the grill.
- Roasted vegetable pasta—I came across this idea last summer, and it has become a staple in my home. Chop onions, garlic, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Put them in a roaster. Add sweet corn and fresh or dried herbs (e.g. oregano, dill, or thyme). Roast the vegetables for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve over pasta and add parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. This is a great vegetarian dish. However, I have also experimented with adding meat—my family’s favorite is to roast the veggies with chunks of ham.
- Salads—OK, I realize this one is obvious. Salads are the one thing that even my modest garden can provide for much of the summer. If you diversify your greens, it can even last you through the hottest months and almost into the winter. Try a four-season lettuce, for example. Also, if you haven’t discovered arugula yet, do yourself a favor and get your hands on some. I planted it this year, and it will become a staple in my garden from here on out! My friends think I’m crazy, but I think it tastes like bacon. Whatever your greens of choice, chop up a fresh tomato, bell pepper, and cucumber—add a little lemon vinaigrette—and enjoy!
- Sandwiches—Here are a few sandwich ideas based around garden goodies:
- Cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese, sprouts, tomatoes, and dill.
- Vegetarian sandwiches—of course that is a very broad description, but for my sisters and me it meant sliced cheese, fresh tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise. Try this one out on your kids; it’s a winner.
- The classic BLT—bacon, lettuce, tomato. For a little something extra, try a fried egg with it. I also add mayonnaise to mine.
- Zucchini Quesadillas—grate your zucchini, sauté it with a little olive oil and chili powder. After it’s slightly browned, put it on a tortilla with tomato, cilantro, and cheese. Toast on both sides.
- Garden Surprise—My Grandma grew up in an Amish community. It was during the Depression and there were six kids in her family. They were frugal and creative, and during the summer, they very often ate “Garden Surprise” for dinner. My great-grandmother would tell the kids, “OK, go pick vegetables for our supper.” Whatever the kids came in with, she would whip up into a meal. I love the challenge of this idea!