Each spring as plants and seeds go into the soil, there is much anticipation of the bounty that will arise from the fertile earth. First harvests begin in a piecemeal pattern with more variety arriving later in the summer. Eating seasonally, eating locally and eating organically is easier than ever with our home gardens and farmers’ markets.

Although the weather has delayed fruit set and growth in many gardens this year, produce is beginning to ripen and offer up delicious options for the summer table. Zucchini and cucumbers are beginning to overwhelm the kitchen. The family cook is challenged to discover new recipes to use up the abundance. Those long-awaited tomatoes are beginning to arrive along with beautiful eggplants, peppers, beans, sweet corn and early potatoes.

On a recent trip to the farmers’ market we could not resist the purple cauliflower and purple cabbage that looked so pristine and inviting.

It doesn’t get much better than this! In August the garden is full of variety and tantalizing tastes. For us gardening chefs the objective is to consume or preserve everything that our efforts have yielded. Summer barbeques feature a luscious rainbow of heirloom tomatoes with fragrant basil and succulent sweet corn. Meals might include colorful stir-fries of peppers, onions, broccoli and beans, whatever has come in from the garden that afternoon. A chilled smooth gazpacho combines tomatoes, onion, peppers and cucumbers.

Many gardeners can or freeze extra produce. Cucumbers transform into bread and butter pickles or quick refrigerator pickles. Tomatoes can be frozen whole or made into pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or salsa. Local farmers’ markets are a wonderful source of produce to preserve for later use.

Neighbors and friends without gardens will always welcome fresh offerings from your garden and even a jar of pickles. Do not forget your local food pantry if the garden harvest exceeds what you are able to use. Check with the food pantry first to learn what days of the week they can accept your donation. August is a month of garden abundance. Take advantage of it!

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