Summer Produce is Here!

California Dreamin’

Ahhh. Summer vegetable season. Those long, warm days we’ve been waiting for. Right now, all the favorites are at their peak of flavor — juicy heirloom tomatoes; crisp, hydrating cucumbers; colorful peppers; shiny eggplants; and, of course, the symbiotic triad important to North American Indigenous foodways, the three sisters — beans, corn, and squash. These gems from the plant world are the building blocks for memorable picnics at the river, evening barbecues, and many a star-studded mountain campout.

Here’s some inspiration for using these delicious garden goodies.

Pickle It. When your garden is overflowing, pickling is the answer. You can do it with green beans, peppers, cucumbers, red onions, and green and yellow summer squash. Add a little zing to your tuna sandwiches and bloody marys with easy refrigerator pickles. Use a mandoline for quick, uniform slices. Whether as a salad, a snack, or an addition to your favorite burger or sandwich, the no-canning varieties are always a hit. (Ready to make some? See this recipe for refrigerator pickles!)

Chill Out. A great way to rehydrate in the summer, chilled, blender-ready soups are fast, require no cooking, and are packed with flavor. We swoon over chilled cucumber soup with mint leaves and classic Spanish gazpacho made with an assortment of farmers’ market heirloom tomatoes such as Brandywines. Have you tried green gazpacho with striped zebra tomatoes, cilantro, and cucumber, or sweet corn gazpacho with yellow tomatoes and yellow bell peppers for a sunny color?

Eat the Rainbow. Sure, there are fiery varieties such as jalapeño, serrano, and habañero, but sweet peppers such as Jimmy Nardellos, carmens, and multicolored bells are also a treat. Try ’em stuffed with rice and cheese, or for a quick, tasty appetizer for those impromptu gatherings, we love shishitos thrown in a hot skillet with a little olive oil and salt and tossed until lightly roasted. Yum!

Toss It on the Grill. Who wants to be in the kitchen with the stove on when it’s hot outside? Fire up the grill and bring along your beautiful palette of summer veggies. We’re dreaming of grilled Romaine, halloumi cheese, and crowd-pleasing skewers. Take it to the next level with grilled veggie pizzas — be mindful not to overdo it on the toppings and keep both a hot and a cool zone on the grill. Cook the crust first over the flame, then place sauce, cheese, and vegetables on top, slide it to the cool zone and keep it there until the cheese is bubbly and golden. Pizza offers so many possibilities. And don’t forget the fresh basil.

Please Romaine Calm. Romaine lettuce is the essence of summer in your bowl. No matter how you dice, slice, chop, pickle, or shred it, summer salads put the ingredients center stage. Make it a balanced meal with proteins such as eggs, cheeses, or meats; add some composed salads such as broccoli slaw or potato or pasta salad; give it some crunch with nuts and seeds; add some fresh or dried fruit for a little sweetness; and don’t forget your leftovers from the grill or pickle jars.

Did Someone Say Taco Tuesday? Everyone loves tacos, and summer produce lends itself to all the fixin’s. Make a classic tomato-based pico de gallo or salsa fresca; get creative with sweet corn and beans, peaches, and peppers; or make it verde style with tomatillos and green tomatoes. Don’t forget the California avocados and limes.

What’s in Season (and coming soon)

  • Basil
  • Berries
  • Cactus
  • Carrots
  • Cherries
  • Chiles
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Green beans
  • Lemongrass
  • Lettuce
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Stone fruit
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips