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Eating from the Summer Garden

What is being harvested from your garden? If your garden is like mine, you have been bringing in more green beans, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and cucumbers than you can possibly eat. And recently, eggplant, basil, asparagus/ long beans, mint, corn and okra are starting to produce abundantly. If you planted Malabar spinach and bitter melon, you are at the beginning of the harvest. French sorrel is making its last hurrah before the summer heat sends it into semi dormancy. And the most prolific crop of all, snails, is increasing logarithmically. Cream peas, zippers, black-eyed peas and edamame harvests are all a short time away.

The challenge is to find breakfast, lunch and dinner cucumber recipes for a couple of months, and the same for the other summer vegetables. Summer is the time of limited types of vegetables, and it is the time for creativity in cooking and a time for canning and freezing for later use.

I find ways to make unusual and delicious salads, salad dressings and soups out of vegetables not usually thought of in that way. There are as many cucumber soup recipes as you can think of ingredients to throw together. For instance, puree together cucumber, red or green onion, mint, garlic, rice or soymilk and yogurt, salt and pepper. Cucumber and tomato salads are similarly open to imagination. For instance, chop a few cucumbers, add the equivalent of 3 or 4 large tomatoes cut up, a cup of chopped mint, and a couple of cups of arugula. To this add a salad dressing made with tomato, avocado, basil and lemon saved from your Meyer lemon tree. Eggplant can be used in baba ghanoush, bruschette, and many middle-eastern and African recipes. The fun is in the adventure of discovering new tasty recipes, and adorning the pallet with surprising flavors.

But what are we going to do with bitter melon and Malabar spinach? The trick in my house is to find bitter melon recipes that remove some of the bitterness while taking advantage of the unusual taste which provides us with perhaps the most healthful vegetable of them all. Many recipes can be found on the Internet. I like to cut the melon lengthwise, deseed, salt and let sit for 30 minutes, then cut into strips, stir fry with garlic, onion, tamari and chili pepper flakes. An egg can be added near the end of the stir-fry.

In some ways, summer gardening is delightful in that it must be done in early morning or in the evening once the sun has lost its power. This leaves the rest of the day for preparing food, reading, doing yoga, looking in vegetable seed catalogs to find interesting things to grow in the fall and winter garden; or just taking time for a well-deserved nap.

Ray Sher is a gardening and permaculture instructor, vegetable and fruit garden consultant, and works his large intensive home vegetable, fruit and herb garden using organic methods. Contact him at

This column is sponsored by Urban Harvest. To find out more about community gardens, school gardens, farmers markets and gardening classes, visit