Summer is the season of goodness

Summer is the time to enjoy the bounty of North Dakota gardens.

The beans are just beginning to emerge in the garden for the season. Picture taken by John Zvirovski 06/01/21

We have waited for this season for months and now the time has come where the garden is in full gear! All winter we make our plans on what we are going to do, using frozen or canned products from the year before that came from our gardens. The supplies begin to run low and we begin to think about those fresh fruits and vegetables that we can harvest and begin to consume once again.

In the garden, some products begin to produce quickly. Some of the earliest are the radishes, lettuce, and spinach and were not susceptible to the frost a week ago. These are soon followed by the sweet peas that many of us enjoy. These are considered cool weather plants. They germinate quickly in May once planted and usually have a harvestable crop within three to four weeks. Radishes seem to grow fast and need to be picked at just the right time depending on variety. Wait too long and you will lose that sharp taste and many can become hollow or woody. Most lettuce also tastes better during the cool season with a less bitter taste that warmer weather can create. Spinach grows and finishes quickly, but the harvest creates numerous salads and other dishes we can enjoy on a daily basis. All of these will go to seed once the warm weather arrives and then fade from the seen, so enjoy them when you can.

I think sweet peas are enjoyed by most people all the way back to childhood. So often I remember the reward to weeding was to eat a few sweet peas along the path. Easy to shell and just pop into your mouth. I know there is usually a downfall when you are to pick the peas for dinner and there is not many to show by the time you get inside. You can only use the excuse that there weren’t many in the garden for so many days before people catch on. Seems like years later they developed the sugar snap and snow peas where you could just pop the entire pod into your mouth for all that flavorful goodness. They are very good for stir frying also! If you ever get too many, they can always be frozen for use at a later date.

Soon after the peas are finished many of the other vegetables come into action. The green, purple, and yellow beans are a favorite to most. There is nothing better than getting a kettle full of fresh beans for steaming and eating. They have such great flavor and are so good for you. One can go out and pick beans every two to three days. The more you pick, the more they keep producing. They are one of my favorites as they are very consistent and keep my kitchen well-stocked. These vegetables can also be frozen or canned for use at a later date. No need to waste any products from the garden as you work hard to grow them and should reap the maximum benefits.


While those are still producing, along come the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. They will all produce until the first frost and provide in abundance. I love cucumbers as they are so fresh and light and can make a meal in themselves. Mix them with some fresh tomatoes and a little basil or mint and you have a refreshing salad for the whole family to enjoy.

The peppers are great for anything whether you like them for cooking in food or just cutting and eating fresh. There are many different kinds of peppers to enjoy from mild bell peppers to the hot as hot send-me-straight-to-hades ghost peppers! Those will really teach you a thing or two about strength or weakness.

As we all know, tomatoes never taste as good unless they come out of the garden freshly ripened and picked. The taste of home-grown tomato is nothing short of amazing. Eaten sliced, diced, or whole they just say summer in a small package. Use them in cooking or juice them for later. They freeze and can well also for use during the cold winter months where store-bought just wont do. Enjoy them as often as possible.

Once autumn arrives the rest of the garden comes to maturity. The corn begins to ripen and is ready for steaming, grilling, canning and freezing. The onions and potatoes are ready to pull and cure for the winter. Squash of all types are at the stage where they can be stored for the colder months and used at any time. If you do not have a cold dark place to store vegetables, they can be cooked and frozen. Herbs can be picked and dried for the season ahead and even the tasty carrots are ready to be uprooted and processed. The sweetness of carrots after the ground cools is out of this world!

Do not forget the crisp apples that get ready from August through October. Before those are the cherries, pears, apricots, and plums that cure our sweet cravings. Berry crops ripen throughout the season and store well through freezing, but beware as they spoil quickly after picking if not used.

The gardening season can be quite joyful, as you can relax while working towards a healthier life. A little water and periodic weeding and you can produce such a great harvest. Enjoy this season for all that it has to offer as it can be one of the tastiest ones around! Growing your own food definitely has the greatest rewards!

To read more columns written by John Zvirovski, click here.


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