When I was a kid, my folks planted a big garden every year. We’re talking HUGE. After all, it was our main source of food all year-long. Working side by side, Mom and Dad canned and froze just about everything they grew. Everything we didn’t eat, that is.
We younguns, as Dad called us, helped too, until we became too rambunctious to be worth the trouble. Then they’d chase us outdoors or send us to pick more garden produce.
Did you have a favorite summer vegetable you waited for all winter and spring?
One of our summer delights was the first mess of fresh, crisp green beans. Mom had to chide us more than once to leave enough baby beans on the vine to grow to canning and eating sizes.
Sinking our bare toes into the cool brown earth beneath the plants, we would snap those sweet, slim, green crescents off and gobble them right there in the middle of the rows.
Along about the middle of July, the beans came on strong. For the first time all summer, we picked enough to feed our entire brood our fill.
Mom always boiled the beans, and served them up in a big bowl, alongside a plate of first tomatoes, sliced into juicy, red wagon wheels. There were cukes too–fresh cucumbers cut lengthwise and in coins, cool to the touch and cool on the throat. We argued about which tasted better, the coins or the wedges.
Living in the city, the closest I get to a garden these days is growing micro greens on my windowsill. I depend on the local organic produce grocer and the farmer’s markets for my near-garden-fresh veggies.
About the second week of July, I prowl the aisles for that first bushel basket of crisp, bright, local garden beans and tiny yellow squashes. It is one of our favorite summer suppers.
If we can get a mess of picked-that-day green beans and tender yellow squashes, we steam them just crunchy tender and eat them au naturel, sans butter or any other condiment. They’re that good.
Usually, I buy a pound of beans and 1-2 squashes per person, because this is our entrée. We love them that much!
If the squash and green beans are a day or two old, as these were when I purchased them yesterday, I doctor them up a wee bit, with a little butter melted over the top or thin shavings of a fabulous Gruyère cheese from our local cheese store. Oh, the flavor!
Tip for beginners
Invest in an inexpensive stainless steel steamer like this one–versatile, and it lasts years and years.
I’ve had mine for decades. I’m a grandmother, remember! You can tell, I’ve used it a lot, as it’s missing its center post and pull ring, which made it easy to lift from the pan. I don’t mind that they’re gone. I can manage just fine without the post and ring.
The steamer opens to full skillet size, or folds to fit inside almost any saucepan, and holds a couple of pounds of vegetables.
Best of all, it is stainless steel, so no leaching into your food! Oh, and did I mention it folds away into a cute little shell only a few inches across? Neat, huh?
Save that steam water! It’s full of nutrients. When it’s thoroughly cool, add it to a veggie soup stock bowl in your freezer. Don’t have one? Here’s how to start a veggie soup stock freezer bowl and make homemade veggie stock from scratch the easy way.
Plain, with toasted sesame seeds, or with butter and cheese, what’s your pleasure?
When the veggies are fresh picked the same day, all their delicate and nuanced flavors come through without much more than a pinch of salt and a twist of pepper.
When we need a little more oomph, or perhaps because we love them so much, the non-vegans among us add a dollop of butter and shave some of our favorite cheese over them, like this. If I have a couple of extra minutes, I’ll toss some toasted sesame seeds over them for those lovely little bursts of flavor you get when you pop one with your teeth.
Are you like me and think fresh garden vegetables delicious as the finest candy? What summer vegetables do you crave all winter, and haunt the produce aisles for, come June or July?