The "Now What?" season is approaching for backyard fruit and vegetable gardeners. As in, "Now, what are we going to do with all this stuff we've been growing?" Eat your garden, every day!
Besides preserving the harvest with a dehydrator, vacuum sealer, freezer and canning equipment, how about throwing it on the barbecue for dinner and dessert?
Fresh-grilled fruits and vegetables are a real summer taste treat. A hot grill caramelizes the sugars in fruits, bringing out a big burst of flavor. Just about any deciduous backyard fruit is suitable for the grill: apples, apricots, figs, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, pluots, strawberries.
Apples, halved and grilled for five minutes, come out tasting like apple pie...without the calories. Because the fruit will absorb any flavors already on the grill, you may want to serve dessert first...or, thoroughly clean the grill before putting on the fruit.
Some suggested backyard fruits and grilling time, using the direct method over medium heat:
Apples: half-inch thick slices or rounds, 3 to 5 minutes.
Apricots: halved, remove the pit, 5 to 7 minutes.
Melons: wedges, 5-7 minutes.
Nectarines and peaches: halved lengthwise, pit removed, 7-9 minutes.
Pears: halved lengthwise, 8-10 minutes.
Strawberries: whole, in a grill pan, 3-4 minutes.
Vegetables on the barbecue? That happens every night here, no matter what's in season. In the summer and fall, it's tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, potatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic. In the winter and spring, the grilling pan get loaded with broccoli and cauliflower, straight out of the garden.
Not much preparation is involved for grilled vegetables: cut them in half or in slices, drizzle a bit of olive oil or teriyaki sauce on them, and grill over direct medium high heat for about five minutes, turning them once halfway through the grill time.
One recipe that looks as good as it tastes: backyard vegetables combined with fully cooked sausages, grilled on a skewer. The glaze is made ahead of time with a half cup of olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, 1 Tbs fresh thyme and paprika, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Using bamboo skewers? Soak them for a couple of hours beforehand to keep them from burning.
Then, load the skewers with whatever is handy from the vegetable garden: zucchini, onion wedges, cherry tomatoes, one inch chunks of potatoes. Intersperse the vegetables with the cooked sausages (our favorite is a chicken and apple sausage, cut into one inch sections).
Get the grill ready with some non-stick spray; heat to about medium high. Brush some of the glaze on the skewered veggies/sausages, grill for about nine minutes, turning halfway through and brushing on more glaze.
A new recipe book tackles the topic of eating fresh from the garden on a seasonal basis. "Placer County Real Food: Recipes and Menus for Every Week of the Year" by Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny, offers up tasty dishes made from your backyard garden fruits and vegetables, or those purchased fresh from your nearest farmer's market.
Have you eaten your garden today?