As we head into August the first thing on most people’s minds is the intense heat, and how to keep cool in spite of it. The second thing may be what to do with the overabundance of certain vegetables which are taking over their gardens.
It’s understandable that in April, when we are starting to plan our gardens, we are looking forward to fresh produce that we haven’t had for a while. After spending the past 4 or 5 months eating tomatoes that were picked green and shipped half way across the world, the memory of fresh home grown produce may be enough to induce temporary insanity.
When I was growing up this was even more the case as produce throughout the winter months left a lot to be desired.
When warm weather was on the horizon we would plan out our garden for the upcoming season. Now my family had a very large garden, at least the size of a three car garage, but what were we thinking when we planted multiple rows of green beans, and more than ten tomato plants? I don’t know, I guess we thought we wouldn’t have enough.
This seems to be a yearly dilemma faced by many home gardeners. A couple of weeks ago we were already beginning to see tomatoes, summer squash, and a few cucumbers being left in the foyer at church with hand letter signs on them saying “FREE” to whoever wants them. It’s only a matter of time before the free summer offerings will begin to show up anonymously on people’s porches as well.
When I was growing up, kind well-meaning, people would bring their extras over to our house. Well, it didn’t take me long to figure out which vegetables in our neighbors gardens either had been over planted, or were not a favorite in their own family.
I certainly remember which one wasn’t my favorite. If you guessed Zucchini you probably grew up in the 70s and early 80s when that particular vegetable was in vogue.
No one in my family really fancied it as a table vegetable, so my Mother would try to disguise it, after all it would have been a sin to waste good food. My apologies to any of my readers who are summer squash enthusiasts, but to this day I cannot bear the sight or smell of zucchini bread, probably because we had to eat so much of it every year.
To be fair, zucchini is a low calorie food that is a good source of fiber, as long as you leave the skins on, as well as antioxidants and Vitamins A and C. So over the years I have kept my eyes open to other palatable alternatives, and I did find one recipe that my whole family likes where I can use three medium zucchini or other summer squash quite nicely.
I know I try to keep it healthy on this blog, however desperate times on occasion warrant unorthodox methods. So here is a less healthy, howbeit delicious way to utilize summer squash, which I have managed to justify by telling myself that the benefits outweigh the negatives of those delectable fried onions.
3 medium zucchini, or other summer squash, cleaned and sliced
½ lb sautéed ground beef
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup without water
1 can fried onions
Combine squash, ground beef and soup and put mixture into 9×13 baking dish. Cover the top with fried onions and bake at 350◦ F for 30 mins.
This is a quick and easy summer meal that can be combined with a fresh lettuce salad made from fresh garden pickings, watermelon slices, or mixed fruit salad and lemonade.
Some other garden favorites that tend to go crazy at this time of year are tomatoes and green beans.
I love going out into the garden, picking a ripe tomato off of the vine and eating it whole, just like an apple. As much as I enjoy them however, even I begin to get tired of seeing the endless parade of this luscious fruit decorating the kitchen counters, window sills, and just about anywhere else you’d care to mention all during the months of July and August.
Of course tomatoes can be preserved and I have bottled and processed more than a few jars of stewed tomatoes, and homemade tomato sauce throughout my lifetime. I have also picked and prepared countless sinks full of green beans and blanched them so that they could be put in the freezer for future use. I vowed that when I had a place of my own I would exercise more self-restraint, and only plant what was necessary, but each spring the well ingrained habits of my thrifty ancestors kicks in, and I find myself following the pattern each year of preserving for future use.
Even when I lived in an apartment for several years and couldn’t plant a garden of my own, I would shop the local farmers markets, getting the best deals when the produce was at its peak, buying more than I really needed, and taking it home to put it up in jars or in the freezer.
Well, when I moved to Pennsylvania I thought I would be able to get back into gardening again, but my new home was constructed on a hill that was pretty much solid rock, with trees that shade just about everything except the house. I found to my chagrin that you couldn’t dig more than two inches without hitting shale, so now my gardens are of the raised bed variety and are dotted around the property in any place I can find that gets more than 5 hours of sun per day.
My ability to plant and maintain a large garden has been curbed by the reality of my situation, but that hasn’t stopped me from following in the footsteps of my heritage, and every year I plan and plant a garden, even if it’s only green beans, lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes.
Sadly nothing else grows very well here due to a lack of direct sunlight, but I’ve learned to be content with what I can do.
Some of my friends and neighbors are more fortunate in their situations and are able to grow endless amounts of whatever they choose to plant. I am happy for them, but in my dreams I see myself someday in a large garden again where I can grow whatever I want.
When that happy day comes I will, once again, be able to carry on the tradition of leaving gifts of fresh vegetables on the porches of my neighbors so that they too may enjoy the fruits of the season.
Denise is a Michigander turned Pennsylvanian, who has been writing stories since Elementary School. Denise won an award at the annual Lansing Youth Talent Show, when she was in 10th grade, for a short story entitled Procrastination is Fatal, but didn’t decide on writing as a career until she was 28 years old. While homeschooling her older children she spent 4 years working through a course from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Through the years Denise’s children have had a variety of health issues, many of which have been linked to various sensitives; having spent more than 20 years researching and trying different things Denise has a boots on the ground view on healthier living. Denise currently writes for 2 blogs and has several books in different stages of completion. She is planning to break ground in e publishing, and hopes to have her first Historical Fantasy book which is set during the renaissance, “Lisa, My Lisa?” ready by the first of the year.