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By Rebecca Fending
Growing your own vegetables at home can be great; you don’t have to run to the store for a fresh side dish to pair with dinner, you don’t have to worry about what, if any, pesticides were sprayed on the vegetables and it also adds to your list of hobbies. However, sometimes too much of a good thing can be difficult to manage. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to use your homegrown veggies without wasting them, here are a few solutions for the current seasonal Florida vegetables.
Too Many Tomatoes?
Okay, so technically they’re a fruit, but in my book, tomatoes are grouped into the savory arena of vegetables. Love them or hate them, tomatoes are everywhere and in everything: ketchup, pizza sauce, even diced up and added to a taco. However, you may be looking for a way to enjoy the highlighted freshness of your tomatoes. Here are a few ideas on how to enjoy a fresh tomato:
Believe it or not, using fresh tomatoes in place of a tortilla tastes great. Eating a tomato this way is perfect for anyone who’s least favorite thing about the fruit is the seeded internal part. This different taco style is fresher and lighter than a traditional one, and helps you get more vitamins from tomatoes than you normally would per taco. All you have to do is prepare your seasoned meat and other preferred toppings per usual and add them to a hollowed out tomato. Eat with a fork and knife or pick it up by hand and enjoy!
Caprese salad certainly isn’t a new idea, but it might be when eaten the way we’ve got in mind. A perfectly light summer snack, meal or side, these caprese sandwiches couldn’t be fresher or taste better. Simply slice your tomato, lay a slice of fresh mozzarella and a leaf of basil on one slice and either drizzle or dip in balsamic vinaigrette. You may want to use a toothpick to hold it all together since the juice of the tomato may cause some slippage of the ingredients.
Homemade Pico de Gallo
Possibly one of the most classic go-to recipes for a tomato harvest is homemade pico de gallo. This traditional Mexican topper’s name translates to “rooster’s beak” because people used to consume it by pinching it between their forefinger and thumb. This fresh salsa couldn’t be easier to make; all it requires are a few diced up tomatoes, red onion, garlic and cilantro. Dive in with a tortilla chip or scoop on top a serving of black beans.
Crawling with Cucumbers?
Again, although cucumbers are technically scientifically classified as a fruit, I’m in denial of the fact. I’ve only ever seen savory preparations of cucumbers such as salads or when dipped in veggie dip. These mild mannered “fruits” are a perfect substitute for anyone looking to be low-carb. A dash of salt or splash of dressing and a cucumber slice is the perfect mid-afternoon summer snack. Here are a few ways you can spotlight and enjoy the freshness of a homegrown cucumber.
Similarly to the “tomato taco” idea, these stuffed cucumbers are a great idea for using up any fresh cucumbers you may have. Just slice your cucumber longways down the middle, scoop out the seeds and a bit of the flesh to make room for any filling you’d like. It can be tuna salad, crab salad, cream cheese topped with turkey or even basil, feta and diced red bell pepper. No matter how you prefer to eat these, there’s no way to go wrong.
Cucumbers as Crackers
Using cucumber slices in place of crackers is an excellent way to cut down calories and carbohydrates while even consuming a few more of your daily vitamins and minerals. Top them with slices of cheese and meat, dip or even just cream cheese (maybe add some roasted red pepper?) as a quick and healthy snack for you, your friends or even grand kids.
If you’re looking to dwindle both your tomato and cucumber numbers in one dish, gazpacho is the way to go. This cool summertime soup makes either a light lunch with toasted bread or pairs wonderfully with a grilled cheese. All you have to do is dump your ingredients into your blender or food processor, blend them well and transfer to a bowl. You can garnish with any fresh herb you’d like.
Prep Your Peppers
Whether you’ve grown bell peppers or hot peppers, it’s never too late to put them to use in a recipe. Juicy and the perfect flavor in nearly any dish, here are a few ways you can make your peppers the stars in the kitchen.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
High in vitamins and protein, stuffed bell peppers are an ideal way to use up produce for dinner. Combine ground beef, rice, tomato sauce and Italian spices to make your kitchen smell wonderful and hungry mouths happy. This classic recipe is one that’s nearly fail proof in terms of pleasing dinner guests and showcasing the fruits (or, vegetables, rather) of your labor.
Saute Those Peppers
One of the simplest but best ways you can use up any peppers in the house is by sauteing them with other vegetables or by themselves. You can serve them over rice and/or with meat to make a quick, easy and fresh dinner. The choice is yours!
Another simple but indulgent recipe is stuffed jalapeños. Combine cream cheese with pepper jack and spices of your choosing to create a fun, fresh appetizer for company, a personal snack or a fun side dish to accompany Taco Night.
These recipes are great whether you follow them to a T or make them your own. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your fresh homegrown produce!