Brandywine TomatoIn the last garden update I showed the herbs in my garden, so this time I’m going to focus on the vegetables, most of which are doing well even though Salt Lake did have a late-season snowstorm that killed a few of my plants. I’ve been adding garden spaces and having raised beds built for the last few years, and this year I’m really happy with how my garden has turned out. Above is my first tomato of the year, on an heirloom Brandywine Tomato plant that was started in a greenhouse by my brother-in-law Clayton. (If you’re a gardener who’s feeling envious, let me confess that plant already had that tomato on it when Clayton gave it to me!) Brandywines are one of my favorite tomatoes, and I’m looking forward to having some early ones this year.

As part of my house renovations, I added two new raised beds just for tomatoes, along the back deck and on either side of the path that leads to my garden. In this smaller bed I have three Green Zebra tomatoes, probably my number one favorite tomato for flavor. I love to eat these just drizzled with Basil Vinaigrette and sprinkled with goat cheese.

On the other side of the steps is this row of six tomato plants which includes two Celebrity tomatoes, a Grape Tomato, two Roma Tomatoes, and the Brandywine Tomato I got from Clayton. I do feel very lucky to have tomatoes growing right next to my deck, where they get maximum sun all day long. Soon I’ll be making things like Marinated Tomato Salad with Parsley and Marjoram Dressing, Summer Tomato Salad with Avocado, Tuna, Cilantro, and Lime, Middle Eastern Tomato Salad, and slow roasted tomatoes. (Links to gardening sites contained in this post are only to illustrate what type of plants I have and are not meant to be an endorsement of that company.)

I also have four of the heirloom tomatoes I started from seed growing in one of my garden beds. I started twelve little pots with seeds, only five survived to get planted outdoors, and then one of these little plants didn’t make it after the snowstorm. The four plants are either Berkeley Tie Dye, Pink Berkeley Tie Dye, or Beauty King tomatoes, but the labels came off when I was keeping the seed moist, so they’re a mystery until tomatoes start to appear. (Thanks again to Nate for the tomato seeds.)

Along the side of my lawn next to my neighbor’s garage is a small strip of garden where I’ve planted eggplants and peppers. Both of those are tender plants, and they didn’t appreciate getting snowed on, but they’re surviving. I’m experimenting with a variety called Thai Kermit eggplant which are round and pale green, and I also have the long skinny Japanese Eggplant. Two eggplant recipes I’ve been loving the last few summers are Spicy Grilled Eggplant with Red Pepper, Parsley, and Mint and Grilled Eggplant with Garlic-Cumin Vinaigrette, Feta, and Two Herbs.

I’ve never had tremendous luck with growing bell peppers, but every year I try again, and this year I have three pepper plants which came in a multi-color pack so I don’t know if they’ll turn out to be green, purple, yellow, or red when they’re ripe. When I manage to get some garden peppers (which are sweeter than the ones from the store) I’ll use them for Breakfast Casserole with Mushrooms, Bell Pepper, and Feta or Stuffed Peppers with Turkey Italian Sausage, Ground Beef, and Mozzarella.

Cucumbers seem to be the plant I have most problems with, and the two original Bush Cucumbers I had planted don’t seem to have survived the snow. I planted the one healthy looking one in back a week later, and will probably add at least one more cucumber plant so I have plenty of cucumbers to make things like Tomato, Cucumber, and Radish Salad with Yogurt and Tahini Dressing, Garden Cucumber Salad with Tuna and Sweet Basil, and Chopped Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Mint, Feta, Lemon, and Thyme.

I also planted some Bush Green Beans this year, which take less space and are easier to keep picked than the green beans that grow on a vine. I love having fresh green beans for recipes like World’s Easiest Garlicky Green Beans Stir Fry or Spicy Roasted Green Beans and Shrimp.

This bed has radishes, Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, and Kale. I didn’t like the radish variety I tried last year, so this year I got Champion Radish. I always grow Bright Lights Chard, and I planted Tuscan Kale, but I didn’t write down the variety for the Collard Greens. All these plants need to be thinned, but before too long I can make Roasted Radishes with Soy Sauce and Toasted Sesame Seed, Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Garlic and Chard, Roasted Kale Chips with Sea Salt and Vinegar, or Pasta with Sausage and Collard Greens.

Every year I grow Yellow Straightneck Squash, which I love to use mixed with Zucchini to make “Creamed” Zucchini, a favorite recipe in the Denny family.

I’m trying this Flying Saucer Squash for the first time this year. If anyone has tried this squash variety, I’d love to know how you used it.

The only zucchini I planted this year is my favorite 8-Ball Zucchini, which are round and best picked when they’re about the size of a pool ball. This shape is perfect for Grilled Zucchini, Stuffed Zucchini with Brown Rice, Ground Beef, Mozzarella and Basil, or Meat, Tomato, and Mozzarella Stuffed Zucchini Cups.

I also love to grow spaghetti squash, and when they’re small I love Spaghetti Squash Cooked as a Summer Squash. For the more mature spaghetti squash, I’ll use them in something like Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash or Spaghetti Squash and Chard Gratin.

Finally, every year the garden has some “volunteers,” plants that come back from seeds dropped the previous year. This year I have this huge patch of dill growing between my garden beds and the fence. I think you can never have too much dill, so I’m going to let the plants get a little bigger; then I’ll transplant them along the fence and have an enormous patch of dill!

If you have a garden at your house, I’d love to hear about what you’re growing or your favorite ways to cook vegetables from the garden.

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