Monday, August 10, 2009

Garden-Fresh and Kitchen-Bound

I was a slave to my garden this weekend.

I love having a garden. I love the taste of a fresh tomato still warm from the sunshine. I love thinking “this recipe would be great with a little fresh Anaheim pepper and oregano,” then walking outside to pick some. I love watching veggies ripen day after day until they’re just perfect.

I also enjoy planting different kinds of tomatoes – varieties you don’t get at the grocery store – just to see what they look and taste like. This year, in addition to my usual Sweet 100s (cherry tomatoes) and Early Girls, I planted a Yellow Boy (big, sweet, gorgeous yellow globes) and a Pink Girl (pale red beauties).

The only downside to having a garden is that it all seems to come ready to pick at once, and then I actually have to DO something with all that great produce. It seems like overnight I go from waiting impatiently for a few tomatoes to finally ripen so I can make a batch of salsa, to suddenly having piles of tomatoes that overwhelm my countertop – enough to make a dozen batches of salsa!

That happened this weekend. My peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash all got harvest-ready at once, and a neighbor’s apricot tree was being ravaged by birds, so I ended up with a couple of mixing bowls of them, too (the apricots, not the birds). So I spent the last two days in the kitchen. I made salsa, chocolate zucchini bread, and apricot pie. For breakfast, I made a baked apricot pancake, and omelets stuffed with cherry tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil, and oregano. We had zucchini casserole, apricots with whipped cream, and fresh tomatoes and mozzarella sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and garnished with fresh basil.

My husband accused me of turning into Martha Stewart. We don’t usually eat this well, because I don’t usually have so much fresh produce that I have to try to think up new ways to prepare.

I still have bowls of tomatoes and peppers left on my counter, and tons of them still on the vine, so I’ll be making more salsa and marinara sauce as the days of August and September go by. And maybe I’ll try making gumbo or jambalaya with my tomatoes, okra, and onions. I’ll be freezing tomatoes and peppers so I can make more during the winter, when the store-bought veggies taste something like a hybrid between tennis balls and cardboard. And sun-dried tomatoes (okay, they’re really oven-dried) are great on salads and in pasta sauces during the winter. I may even try to oven-dry some herbs this year.

So if anyone needs me in the next few weeks, I’ll be buried under a big pile of tomatoes in my kitchen. If you’ve got a great recipe or two for me to try, send it along. I’ll be running out of ideas sometime around Wednesday, I’m sure!


Shari said...

Oh, this all sounds soooo good. Wish I could come over and help you eat all that delicious stuff.

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Wish you could, too! I've got enough for a small army, and the tomatoes just keep coming!