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Dig Right Minute

This is the time of the year to enjoy the fruits – or vegetables – of your labor from spring and early summer. In addition to snipping some herbs for a homemade or semi-homemade dish or popping a perfectly red cherry tomato in your mouth, there are plenty of ways to enjoy and extend the bumper crop from your outdoor gardens and containers.

1.Tomatoes: Here, There and Everywhere.
Take advantage of the truly locally-grown taste of tomatoes and add them to your entrees, salads and appetizers (my favorite: a Caprese salad with homegrown tomatoes and basil paired with fresh mozzarella!). Whip up recipes requiring a lot of tomatoes, like salsa or marinara sauce.

2. Consider Canning.
As canning has made a comeback in recent years, more garden centers and cooking schools are offering classes on how to can your garden’s fresh vegetables. Learn the art and science of preserving your garden for year-round flavor!

3. Easy Pickles, Jams and Giardiniera.
You don’t have to invest in canning equipment and education to preserve and use fresh vegetables and fruits. Making refrigerator pickles is as easy as combining cucumbers, sugar, salt and white vinegar. Create your own refrigerator peach jam with some pectin, sugar and boiled, peeled peaches. You can browse and choose from all kinds of recipes in your cookbook collection, online recipe forums or sites like Pinterest.

4. Chill Out.
Freeze fresh basil now to enjoy all year long, by placing pureed or chopped basil in ice cube trays or freezer containers. Thaw and use when ready. Did you go blueberry picking this year and wind up with 15 or 20 pounds of berries? Freeze them in quart-size freezer bags, so you have some on hand when you have a winter urge for blueberry pie or muffins.

Finally, just because some fruits and vegetables are ripe or even past season in September, you can still plant now for a late-fall crop in your own yard or pot. Great autumn edibles include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces and swiss chard. Plant them in early fall so they’ll mature before the first frost

Don’t forget to call before you dig! Whenever you’re disturbing the ground, especially when planting trees, shrubs, groundcovers or plants, be safe and call JULIE at 811 or log onto JULIE’s www.Illinois1Call.com website and fill out an e-request. It’s free and crucial to avoid hitting underground lines, even in areas where you assume it’s safe to dig.

Relishing Recipe:
Our friends at the Petersen Garden Project (www.petersengarden.org), who are dedicated to teaching people how to grow their own food, have shared their delicious tomato sauce recipe featuring fresh-from the-garden yellow and orange tomatoes

Lindsay’s Golden Tomato Sauce
(Makes 2 cups)

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ sweet onion, diced
4 c. yellow tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. chopped fresh lemon thyme
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. chopped fresh citrus basil (lemon or lime)

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan on med-low heat. Add garlic and onions, and sauté until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and brown sugar. Turn heat to medium and simmer for about 35 minutes, until the tomatoes are broken down and the liquid is reduced. It should look like a chunky sauce.

Turn heat to low and stir in fresh chopped citrus basil. (*At this point, you can puree it in a food processor or blender until smooth, if you like smooth sauces, or you can leave it chunky.) Return to saucepan if you pureed it and continue cooking 5 more minutes. Enjoy with pasta!

Note: The citrus flavors of lemon or lime basil go nicely with the yellow tomatoes; however you can substitute any variety of tomato or herbs to make this sauce your own. You can also make a much larger batch, and freeze or preserve the sauce in canning jars for later use.


Dig Right Minute
by Tony Abruscato
Director, Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Sponsored in part by JULIE, The Chicago Flower & Garden Show presents realistic, as well as DIY solutions to inspire, educate and motivate gardening enthusiasts and newbies alike.  Blooming at Navy Pier - March 14 - 17, 2018.