Eating From a Garden of Goodness

garden-meals-585My garden is outta control.

When my husband Neil’s job took us from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, I insisted on buying a house with adequate space for a garden. In the unrelenting desert, I could barely keep myself alive, much less a plant, but in Salt Lake, the cooler climate would lend itself well to veggie patch.

A little too well, I’ve learned. Thanks to a long growing season, excellent soil conditions, and lots of rain, the plants I put in the ground in April are now producing more than I ever could have expected, both in size and quantity.

Even the jalapeños feel the need to show off their muscles.
Even the jalapeños feel the need to show off their muscles.

That’s my nice way of saying I’m eating a lot of [bleep]ing zucchini this summer.

You know it's a good harvest when your dogs bark in fear at your monster zucchini.
You know it’s a good harvest when your dogs bark in fear at your monster zucchini.

Eating the fruits of my labor — literally — is a Sisyphean task. Just when I think I’ve picked all my garden has to offer, a dozen more fruits make their presence known with their bright, vibrant colors. The nonstop parade of produce in my yard requires quite a bit of creativity in the kitchen, lest I be doomed to eat zucchini bread all day, or worse — see the fruits and veggies spoil before I have a chance to use them in a recipe.

That doesn’t mean I made a lot of elaborate meals this summer. In fact, because my food was so fresh, I actually preferred to showcase those ingredients by keeping my meals simple and straightforward — no multi-step recipes needed. Here’s how I used my bumper crop for a day.

What I Ate for a Day: Straight From the Garden Edition

Breakfast:

My morning started off right with a quick trip to the garden to see what ripened overnight. I came in with a basket full of peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and pattypan squash. I diced up a little of each item, along with some kale, to toss into a scramble. Eggs are a great vehicle for fresh produce — you can make an omelet, scramble, or frittata with almost any ingredient.

BFASt

Snack: 

My neighbor came over and asked if I wanted to take some raspberries off her hands — like me, she had more produce than she knew what to do with. I happily obliged, on one condition: She had to take at least three zucchini out of my yard.

While over at her house picking berries, she poured me an Arnold Palmer — a mix of iced tea and lemonade – and threw a handful of the berries in. It was delicious.

Arnold Palmer

Lunch:

I wasn’t ravenously hungry at lunchtime, but I was craving leftovers from the night before — zucchini-jalapeno fritters (using this recipe from Pamela’s Gluten Free Recipes) and corn on the cob. The corn was an impulse buy from a roadside stand the day before — and it was a very, very good decision. Is there anything better than sweet corn in season?

CORN ZUC

Snack:

Even though I was overflowing with produce, I took a swing through the Salt Lake Farmers’ Market. In addition to locally-grown fruits and veggies, the market showcases vendors who provide great complements to fresh ingredients.

FARMERS MARKET

That day, I was specifically seeking out the Grandma Sandino’s booth, because the garlicky goodness of their Sicilian Sauce was exactly what I needed for the dinner I was planning.

While browsing the goods, I noticed a vendor selling popsicles made with garden-fresh ingredients and no artificial additives. When I saw a strawberry-mint flavor listed on their chalkboard, I knew I wouldn’t be able to turn down a frozen treat.

POPSICLE

Workout:

It was hot outside, so I decided to get to higher elevations for my run. Neil and I drove up the mountain to Alta for cooler temperatures and a trail run through a different kind of garden — the amazing wildflowers that grow on the grounds of the Alta Ski Area. At 8,500 feet of elevation, I couldn’t breathe worth a damn, but with this view, I couldn’t really care.

Alta Trail Run

Dinner: 

After an hour of running, we were hungry. Luckily, a monster zucchini was waiting at home to fill our bellies, because of course there are more zucchini. It’s like a hydra — no matter how many I cut, two more are waiting to grow. IT NEVER STOPS, PEOPLE.

But when I make zoodles (zucchini noodles), all complaints end.

ZOODLES

It’s such a simple meal — fresh zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and fresh basil, all from my garden — yet it’s so immensely delicious. On this night, I tossed the garden bounty in the Sicilian sauce I bought from the farmer’s market. Neil wanted meat with his, so he grilled up a chicken breast to add to his bowl. Zoodles are a great meal for couples with different eating styles, as the plate can be customized to the person eating it.

Do you have a bounty of mutant zucchini in your home garden? How are you using up your harvest? Seriously, I need more ideas! —Susan

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