Now We Are Cooking… with Summer Vegetables!July 28, 2011
The Professional Gardener (PG) student veggie plot is thriving on Red Lion Row (known fondly by the students as “The Row”) and we have been harvesting produce three times a week. It’s wonderful that the produce can be delivered to Longwood's Terrace Restaurant within the hour of being picked from the field. You can’t get any fresher than that!
During the early season, when things were a bit cooler than today, we harvested an abundance of snap peas and numerous kohlrabi heads. We began harvesting snap peas on June 5 and finished harvesting them in late June. Although it was a short season, we reaped a total of over 30 lbs, which everyone was pleased with. Once the snap peas were spent they were replaced with cucumbers and summer squash, both started from seed in the ground. Since it has been so hot outside we have had to water these precious seedlings at least twice or sometimes three times a day to keep them moist and happy.
Along with the heat comes watering the plot, a common everyday task for the Junior PG’s. We find it best to water early in the morning or late in the evening once the sun has gone down to support better water retention. Something to keep in mind when watering your own garden: Watering in the evening is not always ideal because the leaves remain wet and that prolonged dampness can encourage disease. Currently we have been harvesting Swiss chard, carrots, summer squash and cucumbers—all of which are warm season crops that we will be able to harvest through September. Within the next few weeks, we will start harvesting eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. Last week, while I was watering the plot, I noticed that some of the Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes were starting to turn yellow. We are already harvesting a substantial amount of them, which is very exciting.
Jason Belkov, Head Chef of the Terrace Restaurant at Longwood Gardens, shared one of his recipes that uses our summer squash. This is something you can taste while visiting Longwood, or we hope that you will make it at home with produce picked from your own garden!
(about 2 medium) yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick (in lieu of pasta) 1/2 cup onion, chopped 1 red bell pepper, chopped 1/2 cup grated carrot 1/2 cup cooked sautéed sliced button mushrooms 20 spinach leaves 2 small tomatoes, cut up 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste 1 garlic clove, minced 4 tbsp olive oil 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano 1/2 teaspoon fresh basil 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme 1/4 cup water 1/8 teaspoon pepper 1 cup ricotta cheese 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Grill squash until tender and set aside. Pan fry onions & garlic with the olive oil and add carrots, mushrooms and bell pepper until veggies are tender. Add the spinach, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, thyme, water & pepper. Bring this all to a boil.
Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes or until reduced to 2 cups.
In small bowl add ricotta cheese & half of shredded cheese.
In (1 1/2-qt.) baking-roasting pan arrange half of the tomato mixture. Top with half of the summer squash, half the Parmesan and all the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with remaining tomato mixture and then the squash slices.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake 10 minutes longer.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving. * Serving Size: makes 4 servings A total of 220 lb. of produce has already been harvested from the plot, and we are only 7 weeks into the growing season! With how things are progressing, we expect to have a great season and look forward to learning more about vegetables by raising them, and sharing all of that knowledge with you! Since the profits from the veggie plot benefit our class trip, I wanted to let you know that the Professional Gardener Class of 2012 will be traveling to China in October 2012, and we are very excited!