Tag Archives: vegetables

Need Your Favorite Recipes, Please

Face made of vegetablesWhat’s your favorite way to use the bounty from your vegetable garden?

Whether you’re a gardener who likes to cook or a cook who likes to garden, now’s the thyme to get busy in the kitchen.

August is when the fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables we planted in late spring start to come on strong.

Tomatoes and peppers and zucchini – oh my!

A vegetable garden is a lot of work, and we should celebrate the harvest as long as it lasts. I treat every home-grown tomato like a precious gem. Every eggplant gets the star treatment. Perfect peppers are sliced, diced, fried or dried.

One of my favorite simple salads is to cut thick slices of tomato, sprinkle them with ribbons of fresh basil and then drizzle with olive oil. I could also eat tomato, cucumber and cheese sandwiches (almost) every day. Squash that’s stuffed and baked is also a keeper.

But, like other foodie gardeners, I’m always on the lookout for creative recipe ideas. I know I’m not the only who wants fresh recipes that are quick, tasty and help make sure no garden-grown goodies go to waste.

How do you put your garden-fresh produce to use? Please share your favorite ways to serve up your homegrown treasures for appetizers, snacks, soups, salads, pasta , pickles, and anything else you like to eat. Ways to preserve the harvest count, too.

Use the “comments” section to add your own recipes and ideas or add a link to recipes you’d recommend to other vegetable growers.

Thank you!

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

4 Ways to Share the Harvest

Share the HarvestOn August 8 I saw a picture on social media of three oversized zucchini squashes lined up against someone’s front door.

Apparently it was National Sneak Some Zucchini On Your Neighbor’s Porch Day and gardeners were making the most of it to get rid of their giant zucchinis.

I know summer squashes can be the punch line to gardening jokes, but I didn’t know there was a whole day devoted to surprising neighbors with jumbo fruits that might go to waste.

Good gardeners know that zucchinis are best when they’re small and tender. To avoid club-sized fruits, harvest early and often, when fruits are about 5-7 inches long. It pays to remember at the height of the season, fruits can be ready to pick within a week of flowering.

Instead of unloading zucchinis onto unsuspecting neighbors, why not donate the extra produce to people who will appreciate it? Here are four ways to share the harvest with a food pantry that will distribute it to our neighbors in need:

Ample Harvest is a national charitable organization that connects gardeners with local food pantries by zip code. On the website homepage there’s a Find a Pantry button at the top of the page. When I keyed in my zip code, I found a dozen pantries within a 9-mile radius.

Colorado Hunger Free Hotline
In addition to being a food resource, the Colorado Hunger Free Hotline can help gardeners find a food pantry that accepts fresh produce. Call 855-855-4626 (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and ask about food pantries located in your zip code. Then get in touch with the pantry for details about dropping off your fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Food Connect
Fresh Food Connect is a local project of Groundwork Denver, Denver Food Rescue and Denver Urban Gardens. The program has three goals: reduce food waste, collect fresh produce and employ low-income youth. Fruits and vegetables are collected from your front porch and either donated or sold at a youth farm stand. If you live in zip code 80205, you can sign up and get a weekly email asking if you have any produce to donate. Someone on a bike with a trailer will ride by and pick it up.

Fresh Food Connect organizers say the program will expand to other neighborhoods, so even if you don’t live in the 80205 neighborhood, sign up so they’ll have an idea of where to expand the program in the future.

Project Angel Heart
Project Angel Heart takes fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs and turns them into healthful meals for their clients with life-threatening illnesses. Project Angel Heart has a list of accepted items, especially chard, tomatoes, zucchini! and yellow squash (see the full list and other details on the website).

Produce must be harvested and dropped off on the same day: Mondays, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Denver office and kitchen (4950 Washington St.).

If you have a favorite drop-off spot, please add it to this list and help other gardeners find the best use for their extra produce. And let’s start celebrating zucchinis for their important role they play in our gardens — and kitchens.

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

Big Harvests from Baby Vegetables

Up until a few years ago, small-space vegetable gardeners had a limited number of choices when it came to growing patio-size fruits and vegetables. Now, thanks to creative plant breeders and forward-thinking seed companies, there are dozens of small-sized fruits and vegetables meant for container planting.

Baby vegetables typically grow pint-sized produce on smaller-than-usual plants. The miniatures look just like the full-size options and retain all the same flavor, but because they’re smaller, they can be harvested and enjoyed earlier.

When shopping around, look for clues in the plant names like tiny, little, miniature, dwarf, bush-type, personal-sized or baby.

This season I had fun experimenting with three new vegetable plants especially bred to grow in containers or small-space gardens. Each grew especially well and produced a surprising number of beautiful and delicious fruits.

If you’re looking for some new container vegetables to grow next season—or to recommend to other gardeners who lack large vegetable-growing spaces—you might like to give these a try:

little bites cherry tomatoLitt’l Bites cherry tomato

Litt’l Bites is a small-size plant that’s perfect for hanging baskets. These were easy to start from seed (about 6-8 weeks before the last average frost date) and transplant into containers when weather warms. The plant grows quickly and sends out sprays of tasty tomatoes that cascade over the edge of a hanging basket or tall container. The tomatoes are ready to pick in 65 days and the plant keeps producing through the season. I planted nasturtiums with the tomatoes for added appeal.

Little prince baby eggplantLittle Prince container eggplant

Get a head start with these eggplants by planting Little Prince seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last average frost. When transplanted into large patio containers, the plants grew two feet tall and produced adorable eggplants in 65 days. It seemed like there were always a handful or two to pick, and the plants kept producing all season. Little Prince would be a nice addition to an edible landscape because the plants feature green fuzzy leaves and nice lavender flowers. Harvest the fruits while they’re glossy to keep the flesh seedless and sweet.

baby butternut squashBaby Honeynut winter squash

As soon as night-time temperatures are 50-55 degrees, plant these little personal-size butternut squash seeds outside. The long vines grew well on a trellis placed in a large container. Each squash is about 4-5 inches long and weighs about 1 pound. Warm fall weather helps the fruit reach the 110-day mark for fruits to turn from green to tan and develop a hard outer shell. Wait for the first frost for vines to die, then clip the fruit, leaving a long stem for winter storage. These small winter squashes have a dark orange interior with an exceptionally sweet flavor.

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener