Fresh from the Garden

A garden planted in the early summer is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
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Making the Most of a Bountiful Summer Harvest

by Sara Sullivan

Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies. Although growing your own produce requires time and maintenance, it is worth the effort come harvest time. There’s nothing better than a perfectly ripe tomato or some freshly picked sweet basil. A garden planted in the early summer is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Take zucchini, for example. This is a plant that does so well in the garden that I end up harvesting it multiple times a week. A zucchini is ready to pick when it is about six to eight inches long. Any larger than that and it will become too seedy. Additionally, if you are diligent about harvesting your zucchini when it’s ready, then the plant will continue to produce more and more throughout the season.

Fresh herbs are also a great investment when it comes to a summer garden. Their versatility in the kitchen makes them a homegrown staple. Cilantro is a great addition to Mexican-inspired dishes, fresh oregano is perfect for a homemade pizza sauce and a few sprigs of rosemary add some much-needed flavor to roasted chicken. My favorite herb, however, is fresh basil. It has a sweet peppery flavor that pairs especially well with Italian dishes, but also pairs surprisingly well with summer fruits like strawberries. Adding some thinly sliced basil to a strawberry shortcake is a serious game changer.

This is really just skimming the surface of what can be grown in a summer vegetable garden. There are so many possibilities. Cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, lettuces, carrots and tomatoes all produce well. I’ve even got a Concord grape vine that has been giving us more and more fruit every year. Homemade grape jelly is just magical.

The following recipes are for my fellow summer gardeners in the Finger Lakes. These recipes merge summer garden staples with local food products, such as local cheeses, so that you can continue to support regional producers as well. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, and that they inspire you to make the most out of your summer garden.

Sara Sullivan is a food photographer and recipe developer that was raised in Ithaca, NY. Follow her on Instagram @SaraLynn.Bakes for more recipes.

Classic Eggplant Parmesan
To allow for even cooking, cut the eggplant into uniform slices about ¼ inch thick. Save on time with this dish by using a jar of your favorite pre-made marinara sauce. Yield: 12–14 rounds, serves about 4 people
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Garden-Fresh Bruschetta
Feel free to use whatever kind of tomato you prefer for this recipe. I used some vine-ripened Early Girl tomatoes, but I would also recommend trying multi-colored heirloom tomatoes for a pretty rainbow bruschetta.
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Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Grated zucchini is my secret to a super-moist chocolate cake. I also achieve a nice fluffy crumb by not overmixing the batter, and instead stirring until the ingredients are just combined.
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