Here in Vermont it’s that time of summer when gardens are overflowing with produce. It seems that every other day I have two dozen hot peppers to pick and each week I’m making massive batches of pesto (more on that in a minute). For me, having lots of veggies to harvest is simultaneously rewarding and overwhelming. And I think many gardener’s would agree that it’s easy to feel swamped by the amount of food coming out of the garden at the height of the growing season, especially if you don’t have a set plan for it.
Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve come to realize which veggies I know I have a definite use for and which ones I should cut back on—for example, cabbage is incredibly fun to grow in my opinion, but there’s only so much I can eat. To formulate an understanding of which varieties I should grow and how much, I had to really examine the foods I like to snack on and the meals I like to prepare. During this self-reflective process there were a few recipes that immediately rose to the top and I wanted to share a little bit about them with you today. Below are three of my absolute favorite summertime garden snacks that allow me to use a significant amount of produce from a garden in one go, plus they’re delicious and easy to make whether you’re a kid or an adult!
Pan fried (blistered) shishitos: Shishitos are hands down my absolute favorite type of pepper. They are a finger-size, very mild Japanese variety (just a hit of spice) that taste best when sauteed whole in a little bit of olive oil with some salt sprinkled on top (just toss them in a pan at medium-high heat with the aforementioned ingredients until they’re slightly charred). They’re tasty enough to be a stand-alone snack, but I commonly use them as a side during dinner. And if I’m not craving whole shishitos, I’ll simply chop them up and add them to any dish that involves peppers. I typically grow one or two shishito plants each season and end up eating 8-12 peppers nearly every other day.
Pesto: I tend to have at least five basil plants in my garden, and making pesto is the only way I can keep up with the amount of basil I harvest throughout the growing season. While making pesto almost weekly can sometimes feel like a chore, I know that I can easily freeze whatever I make and that by the end of the summer I’ll have enough pesto to last me until the next growing season. One of the things I love about pesto is all the different varieties you can make! Try a spinach version or this parsley one. Kale and garlic scapes are also wonderful additions to spice up a traditional basil-based recipe and you can even add in some shishitos to create a slightly spicy kick.
Quick Pickles: I’m not super into raw cucumber but I love pickles and I like the idea of making my own but don’t have the patience to go through the whole canning process (nor do I have the proper equipment) The solution: quick pickles! Unlike fresh preserved pickles which can be stored up to a year, quick pickles only last a few weeks in your refrigerator. You can easily make your own with a basic brining solution or you can simply toss sliced cucumbers in leftover brine once you’re done with a store bought jar (though you should only do this once or twice before getting a new jar). Having a single plant can sometimes produce too much for even my quick pickling habit, especially if I let the cucumbers reach their full size, so I do my best to harvest cukes when they’re still small (approx. 3-4 inches).