11 Dishes to Make From the Garden for Summer Savings
The fruits of a well-planned garden can add up to major savings on food while providing weeks of fresh and nutritious homegrown produce. The 11 recipes featured here incorporate crops popular with home gardeners, including herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, greens, beans, and eggplant. They're all easy to grow and guaranteed to yield copious harvests.
Related: How to Freeze Vegetables and Fruits for Winter
This tangy and crispy spin on a summer staple is a welcome addition to any meal. Just before the garden bursts with a bumper crop of juicy red tomatoes, pick a few that are still green and try Southern Living's recipe for this classic regional dish. A refreshing way to mix up the flavors of one ingredient, fried green tomatoes can be served with eggs at breakfast, as a sandwich for lunch, or alongside a salad as a dinner entree. Salt the slices as they drain and eat immediately.
Anyone who grows zucchini knows how prolific the plant can be. Fortunately, there are myriad ways to use a surplus of zucchini, including as the centerpiece of a meal. Stuffing zucchini is a favorite technique -- it's quick and allows for lots of creativity. One simple approach calls for a filling of vegetables and herbs from the garden, along with a small amount of bread crumbs and (optional) cheese. Using the scooped out zucchini flesh in the stuffing mixture makes the most of the base ingredient and keeps cost to a minimum when feeding a crowd.
Turning an abundance of summer squash into fritters invites even the veggie-averse to indulge. A recipe from Golden Gate Gardener can be adapted for other vegetables (carrots, for example) and might benefit from a handful of fresh herbs. Top the fritters with homemade marinara sauce made from vine-ripened garden tomatoes and fresh herbs, along with salt, garlic, and olive oil (the blog Love Grows Wild has a 30-minute recipe). Cook up a large batch to use with other meals throughout the week.
Light and refreshing, summer rolls typically combine an assortment of julienned vegetables and herbs in a rice-paper wrapper, accompanied by a piquant dipping sauce. Sunset magazine lays out the basics, although any ripe vegetables and herbs from the garden can be employed. Try using garden-fresh lettuce for the wraps instead of rice paper and just-picked herbs, such as mint, for the dipping sauce to create a dish that's cheap and 100 percent homegrown.
Related: 10 Money-Saving Vegetables to Use in the Summer
Using zoodles (spiralized zucchini) or any favorite noodle as the base yields a dish that's light, bright, and captures all the flavors of a flourishing garden. Add a generous amount of chopped fresh herbs plus lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped fresh tomatoes to the noodle base and toss to combine. Optional additions include garlic, chili peppers, and other lightly sautéed or fresh vegetables. Serve this simple and quick dish warm, room temperature, or chilled.
Essentially a summer garden blended into a chilled soup, gazpacho shows off cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper at their best. A Food & Wine recipe makes use of a high-powered blender to create a silky texture that adds finesse to this classic soup. Alternatively, process longer in a food processor or regular blender until sufficiently smooth, or pass the soup through a strainer for an even finer consistency.
A homemade salad from garden produce is fresher and definitely cheaper than buying the components at the supermarket. Salads can be concocted from anything and everything in the garden and topped with a favorite dressing. Try using vegetables that don't normally find their way into salads, such as finely sliced raw zucchini and summer squash and edible flowers. Add a touch of sweetness with any ripe fruit (maybe strawberries from the garden). If lettuce or other leafy greens, such as chard or kale, aren't part of the garden cornucopia, use leafy herbs such as parsley and basil as the greens.
Start by making elegant zucchini ribbons with a spiralizer or simple vegetable peeler, and then dress with any number of sauces or vinaigrettes. An ideal choice is pesto, and the recipe site Kitchen Parade has a vegan version that calls for garden-grown basil. Toss the delicate noodles gently by hand and then top with chopped tomatoes, lemon zest, and black pepper.
Green beans are another crop that keeps on giving once it gets going. There are so many ways to use this vegetable that boring doesn't apply. The flavor of garden-fresh beans is bold and bright, and they retain crispness when cooked. A Wake Up and Eat recipe for braised green beans is a classic preparation with herbs and garlic that lets the beans' flavor shine through. To avoid overcooking, simmer, don't boil, the beans until soft. Any variety of bean with an edible shell works in this recipe, but adjust cooking time accordingly.
The blog Gourmande in the Kitchen offers up a recipe that prolongs the shelf life of garden vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Once infused with garlic, olive oil, and herbs, marinated vegetables are ready to be the star of any meal. Use in a decadent breakfast omelet, vegetarian panini, or cocktail-hour bruschetta. Reserve the flavorful oil for sauces, dressings, and marinades. Don't hesitate to substitute other herbs and vegetables in this recipe.
Chimichurri is an Argentine sauce composed primarily of herbs and garlic and typically served on grilled meats. The bright and fresh flavors of the sauce pair well with the smoky taste of anything grilled, including homegrown vegetables. A version posted on Allrecipes features cilantro, fresh oregano, and flat-leaf parsley, but as with many herb-based sauces, substitutions and additions are possible. So customize this classic recipe with whatever is on hand.