A Garden of Happiness

Try some new ways to prepare stars of the summer garden.

The very first biblical garden was called Eden, perfection in every way—where the first man, Adam, would enjoy the garden’s fruits and have everything he needed. That tells me even an Almighty spirit valued a garden.

I don’t pretend to be a vegetable gardener, just an admirer and taker of its bounty, for which I am most grateful. To plant a vegetable garden is to commit oneself to a long process. It conjures up a wise Chinese proverb that says life begins the day you start a garden. From selecting seeds suitable for your growing zone to planting them in grow pots to feeding them as needed to transferring them to the ground, gardening is like watching a life evolve from infancy to maturity. And through this process, one is taught to be patient, diligent and mindful. The reward is gratefulness, happiness and surprise.

My home garden is the brainchild of my husband, Guy, who seems to have just the right symbiotic relationship with vegetable seeds and plants. During the winter months, he sketches the garden layout on lined, yellow paper pads. Of course, there will be the annual favorites of tomatoes, beans, squash, eggplant and zucchini. But the star of the garden will always be his beloved lettuce plants that, when harvested, could pass for the most gorgeous bridal bouquets. There are so many varieties, and they give a harmonious look and taste in a salad bowl.

I am always challenging myself as to how to treat daily gifts to my kitchen, such as zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. I know that freshness needs no fussing, so minimal cooking is best, but sometimes I like to invent new ways to use all this produce. Tomatoes get turned into sauces or squeezed for tomato juice. Some are dried and placed in olive oil for winter use; others are frozen to use to make tomato soup. Some go into savory tarts and gratins.

Zucchini gets shredded to add as moist filler for meatballs or meatloaf, or to add to soup or pancake batter. Eggplant becomes sweet and sour caponata, a Sicilian eggplant relish of sorts, and slices are cleverly stacked with layers of velvety mozzarella cheese for a new take on the classic casserole known as eggplant parmigiana.

Claude Monet once said that “my garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” Whether a garden is large or small, it is your personal masterpiece to cherish every garden season.