It's that time of year again. The bounty from Rim Country gardens is beginning to show itself.
Nothing can match the delicacy, texture and tremendous flavor of in-season, fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables.
A few, common sense steps need to be taken to keep fresh produce at its highest quality and retain its nutritional value.
- Most vegetables keep best in the refrigerator.
- Sort vegetables before storing and place them in the vegetable crisper, plastic containers or bags.
- After refrigeration, use within two or three days: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chard, green onions, green peas, spinach, salad greens.
- Use within four or five days: artichokes, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, peppers and soft-rind squash.
- Use within one to two weeks: beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, iceberg lettuce, parsnips, radishes and turnips.
Now, about those tomatoes -- if they are ripe, store them uncovered in the refrigerator and use within a week. Unripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature, but away from direct sunlight, until they ripen.
Sweet corn in husks should be used as soon as possible after picking, or stored uncovered in the refrigerator.
Several different vegetables don't require refrigeration, but they do require a cool room temperature -- about 60 degrees, and should be used within a week. These are: eggplant, sweet potatoes, rutabagas and hard-rind squash.
Potatoes, if stored properly, will keep for some time. Store them in a dark, well-ventilated place, with a temperature ranging from 45 to 50 degrees. General purpose and baking potatoes stored in this manner will keep for several months. New potatoes will keep for several weeks. However, potatoes stored at room temperature should be used within a week.
Dry onions should be stored in loosely woven or open mesh containers at room temperature.
Probably the best way to enjoy the bounty from Rim Country gardens is to serve almost straight from outdoors to the table, with as little cooking and seasoning as possible. But, if you are in the mood to roll up your sleeves and turn fresh produce into special dishes, here are a few recipes to consider.
6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (about 25 small)
2 small onions, sliced
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 cup white or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
Layer sliced cucumbers and onions in a glass container, approximately three quarts in size. Mix other ingredients together until sugar dissolves then pour over vegetables, cover and refrigerate. Let rest for 24 hours before eating. These pickles can be stored up to a month in the refrigerator.
Green Tomato Pie
Pastry for two-crust pie (recipe to follow)
1-3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 medium green tomatoes, peeled, sliced and slices quartered (about 4 cups)
Grated peel and juice of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon grated peel and 3 tablespoons juice)
1 tablespoon butter
Pastry for Two-Crust Pie
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Make pie crust first.
Cut shortening into flour, then add salt. Add water a tablespoon at a time, mixing until pastry almost cleans side of bowl (1 or 2 additional teaspoons of water may be added if needed).
Gather pastry into a ball and divide in half, then shape into two flattened rounds on lightly floured, cloth-covered board. Roll one round 2 inches larger than an inverted 9-inch pie plate. Fold into quarters and place in plate. Unfold and ease into pie plate. Roll second round. Fold into quarters and cut slits into dough for steam to escape.
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
For filling, mix sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in medium bowl. Add tomatoes, lemon peel and juice, toss.
Turn into pastry-lined plate and dot with butter. Cover with top crust, seal and flute.
Bake until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes, covering edge of crust with strips of aluminum foil during last 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.
2 cups cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 pounds fresh green peas, shelled
2 medium green or red peppers, cut into rings
1 small onion, sliced and separated into rings
3/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons snipped fresh dill leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon salt
Layer cauliflower, peas, peppers and onion in 10-inch skillet, add water and sprinkle with seasonings. Heat to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
4 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease bottoms of two 9-by-5-by-3 inch loaf pans. Blend all ingredients on low speed for 1 minute, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, then pour batter into pans.
Bake 50 minutes to an hour, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan, then allow to cool completely before serving.
Information and recipes from "Betty Crocker's Step-by-Step Recipes."