As with all gardening, growing edibles takes some work -- but the hours and effort spent are returned to the gardener many times over during the harvest. By doing the growing yourself, your backyard becomes your own personal produce aisle, only better. Here, recipes that showcase several vegetable-garden favorites. Get ready to dig in.
One of the most productive vegetables, summer squash differ from winter squash in that they are picked and eaten while immature and tender. Zucchini is simply an elongated, cylindrical, usually green variety of summer squash; straightneck, crookneck, and pattypan are other common types.
All beans are one of two types: bush beans or pole beans. Bush beans grow on sturdy, shrubby plants, while pole beans grow on long vines that need external support, such as a fence or trellis. Both can be found in an abundant selection of colors and lengths, and with round or flat pods.
Serve this cucumber dressing with blanched beans for a light summer side dish.
Even those with limited space can grow herbs. They are easy to cultivate and make great additions to vegetable and container gardens. Pulling from your own herb supply is much more economical than buying bunches as you need them. Annual herbs include basil and dill. Perennial herbs include rosemary, chives, sage, spearmint, and thyme.
A cucumber plant makes an excellent introduction to vegetable gardening for children, and the whole family will enjoy the mild-flavored crunch cucumbers add to meals. Several fruit types are available: short, stout pickling; spiny slicing; long, thin Asian types; seedless; and a number of novelty kinds including egg-shaped, yellow, and white. Gardeners with limited space should also look for dwarf or compact varieties.
Tossing smoked mackerel into a main-course salad adds nutritional value and meaty texture to this basic dish.
All tomatoes fall into one of two categories: Indeterminate plants bear fruit continuously up until frost; determinate plants set one large crop and are finished once it ripens. The numerous fruit types -- including currant, cherry, slicing, plum, and beefsteak -- may fall into either category. Heirlooms, whose seeds have been saved and passed on by gardeners; are frequently indeterminate.
Use only perfectly ripe tomatoes for this dish. They will yield much more liquid to ladle around each colorful serving.
There are thousands of varieties of peppers; the best way to sample many kinds is to grow some yourself. From the mildest bell to the hottest habanero, the growing techniques are the same and not at all complicated. Native to Mexico and South America, peppers enjoy the long season and hot, sunny weather characteristic of these areas. They don't usually require staking or other maintenance aside from watering, weeding, and fertilizing.
Soft, delicate strawberries don't travel well, so they are usually shipped unripe, which means the sweetest, most fragrant berries can only be had by growing your own. Once established, a well-managed bed will produce strawberries for up to five years. Varieties may be early, mid, or late season, or everbearing. Plant a mix of types to extend the season.