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  • Jenny Hill

The Garden Files: Recipes for the Abundance of the Season

To me, this is the time of year Minnesota really shines–I call it High Produce Season. Whether you are in our Northern Lakes region (Pine River and surrounding area) or Driftless region (Southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin), garden production is likely booming.

In our Campus garden in Pine River, the cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli are massive this year.

With 28+ types of produce now available, August is that time of year when it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the Farmer’s Market. From now through the first frost, it’s easy to bring home armloads of amazingly beautiful fruits and vegetables. For your own copy of the above chart, check out To find Farmer’s Markets near you, try this map from the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association.

For two great seasonal recipes from Chef Chris, read on:

Zucchini Parmesan

2 cups bread crumbs

1 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

2 eggs

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 large zucchini

2 large tomatoes (roughly the same width as the zucchini)

2 yellow onions

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 jar spaghetti sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Cut the zucchini into ¼ inch thick slices and the tomatoes. Set the tomatoes on a paper towel to draw out the moisture. Salt and pepper the Zucchini and grill lightly (just enough to put marks on them.)

  2. Make the stuffing. Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, ½ tablespoon oregano,basil,black pepper, salt and eggs. Mixture should hold its shape but still crumble. Add water if needed or more bread crumbs so the texture is right.

  3. Julienne the onions and saute them in olive oil until they are very soft but do not brown them. Then add the other ½ tablespoon of oregano. Set aside and let cool.

  4. On a pan (parchment paper recommended) assemble the towers.

Stack a zucchini slice, sauce, onions, tomato, zucchini, sauce, onions,tomato, stuffing, and finally mozzarella.

  1. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Sometimes Chef Chris delivers kitchen samples directly to the garden crew!

Fridge Pickles

Chef Chris notes: “These pickles will last three or four weeks in your refrigerator. They are not to be stored in a cupboard or closet. So don’t do this to tons of cucumbers unless you have that much fridge space or know they will be gone. I recommend making 6 jars at a time then find homes for five of those guys with your friends.”

Chris advises that regardless of what you choose to flavor your pickles with (see recipe below), you will want to find things that accent or change the flavors. “The sky is the limit and this can be kind of fun to try new things and find good ones. This is my recipe for six jars.”

Things you will need:

* Cucumbers (Chris says: “You will have to choose what size you want to have. Will they be pickle spears for snacking? Big chunks that can be used as garnishes? Or slices for burgers and sandwiches? Up to you but you will need to cut them for this recipe to work properly.”)

* Apple cider vinegar

* Fresh Dill blooms and some dried dill

* Pickling Salt

* Water (Chris says: “I found that tap water can be … frustrating. Use distilled to top off the jars.”)

* Six pint jars with lids (if you are reusing make certain they are well cleaned)

Here is the recipe:

3 cups apple cider vinegar

10 to 12 cucumbers

2 cups pickling salt

4 cloves of garlic minced

3 teaspoons dried dill

4 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

3 tablespoons of mustard seed

6 dill blooms

6 whole cloves of garlic peeled and trimmed

6 slices of yellow onion

  1. Cut the cucumbers and sprinkle salt all over them. Try not to bruise or manhandle them too much.

  2. Heat the vinegar in a pot but do not boil. Add the spices you want to flavor your pickles here. Remove from heat and let steep and cool.

  3. In the bottom of the 6 jars place a dill bloom (flowers on), 1 whole clove of garlic and 1 slice of onion

  4. IMPORTANT STEP: rinse the salt off of the cucumbers!

  5. Pack the cucumbers into jars. Leave ½ inch of space at the top.

  6. Add ½ cup of vinegar mixture to each jar. Try to keep the floating spice as even as you can in each jar.

  7. If the liquid in each jar does not cover the cucumbers add the water until it does.

Store in refrigerator and eat within 4 weeks.

Saving Seeds

One more seasonal update–Gardener Dave has been marking certain sections of a patch where he wants to save seeds. In the photo below you can see Dave marking an area of cucumbers that he’s allowed to grow extra large and will leave on the vine until they turn yellow and then orange. In the pole beans, the garden crew has also stopped picking the bottom 12-14 inches of beans, leaving those for seed.

Watch for more on seed saving in future blog posts!


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