There is nothing quite like the reward of collecting, picking, and gathering fresh vegetables and fruit from your own garden plot, whether large or small. Not only is it beneficial for health and emotional well-being, something we need now more than ever, but it’s also cost-effective and gardening teaches important life skills for all ages.

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This year gardening saw a huge spike in popularity, as a great number of people found themselves at home more than usual, due to the pandemic. Whether during quarantine, extended work closures, or simply, the availability of more leisure time, many of us finally had an opportunity to cultivate their own backyards right here in Pierce County.  

Tomatoes typically run from July through October in our region and have tons of recipes they can be included in. Photo credit: Emily Molina

According to Science Daily, a study done by Princeton researchers found that gardening on the home front produces a level of emotional contentment akin to activities like biking, walking, or eating out at a restaurant. The advantages are far-reaching, improving both emotional health, and encouraging overall healthy lifestyles from the benefits of eating fresh produce, and supporting physical activity.

Growing your own fruit and vegetables can cut down on the amount of money spent at the supermarket. In April, the price of food in grocery stores increased by 2.6% due to COVID-19. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated it was the highest jump in a one-month period since 1974. Luckily for us, there’s a broad variety of fruit and vegetables that grow very successfully in the Pacific Northwest.

Garden to Table
Gardening is a fun and useful skill for children and people of all ages. Photo credit: Jessica Guerrero

Gardening is a wonderful skill for children and people of all ages. For younger children, it helps develop both fine and gross motor skills. It imbues a sense of responsibility in maintaining and caring for plants, as well as instilling confidence with the outcome of hard work. It teaches people of all ages about concepts like cause and effect, and what works best to make things grow. It sparks knowledge in the science behind different plant varieties – all valuable skills.  

With so many overall benefits, its plain to see that gardening is for everyone. Start planning your own garden for next year’s season. For those of us that got busy in the spring with planting, watering and weeding, it’s finally time to reap the harvest of what we have sown from garden to table.

What to do with all of that fresh deliciousness? Try a couple of easy family recipe ideas this fall.

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini is a successful crop in Northwest gardens from June through October. Try this recipe for fresh-baked Zucchini Bread on a crisp fall day.

Garden to Table
Try fresh-baked Zucchini Bread on a crisp fall day. Photo credit: Emily Molina

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups grated zucchini (no need to peel, do not drain liquid)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix dry ingredients separately:

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs until frothy. Stir in sugars, oil, zucchini, vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients separately. Then stir into the zucchini mixture slowly until well mixed. (Stir in optional nuts). Pour into two well-greased loaf pans standard size (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½), fill halfway. Bake for one hour or until tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from pan to cool completely.

Garden Tomato Bisque

Garden to Table
Fresh tomato bisque sounds just right for a chilly autumn day. Photo credit: Emily Molina

Tomatoes typically run from July through October in our region and have tons of recipes they can be included in. Fresh tomato bisque sounds just right for a chilly autumn day.

Ingredients:

3 ½ pounds of ripe tomatoes (any fresh garden tomatoes can be used)

14 fluid ounces, or 1 2/3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2-3 teaspoons sugar

A small handful of basil leaves, plus extra for garnishing later

Salt and pepper

1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Add tomatoes to boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and pour cold water over them. Peel off skins (dispose of skins) and quarter tomatoes. Put quartered tomatoes in a large pan and pour the broth in. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for ten minutes until tomatoes are pulpy. Stir in tomato paste, vinegar, sugar and basil. Season with salt and pepper, cooking gently and stirring for two minutes. Process the soup in a blender or food processor, add heavy cream, then return to pan to reheat slowly. Serve and garnish with basil leaves.

Roasted Garden Vegetables

Garden to Table
Create a wonderful medley with a variety of fresh produce from your garden. What goes in is all up to you! Photo credit: Emily Molina

Create a wonderful medley with a variety of fresh produce from your garden. What goes in is all up to you! Try seasoning with ‘Everything, but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend,’ from Trader Joe’s. A friend told us about it and it’s a real hit at our house.

Ingredients:

1 medium zucchini

6 medium carrots

1 medium red onion, quartered

1 large red bell pepper

1 large orange bell pepper

¼ cup green onions, chopped (garnish)

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Garlic

Everything, but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, from Trader Joe’s (Optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (can also be done on the grill in a foil package). Slice zucchini, peppers, and carrots. Place in one layer on an aluminum foil-covered baking sheet, after spraying with cooking spray. Drizzle olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, garlic & Everything but the Bagel seasoning. Bake carrots, squash, zucchini together for about 20 minutes. Add peppers, and onions, for ten more minutes. Remove, cool briefly, toss together, garnish with green onions and serve.

Reap the bounty of the harvest and enjoy the fruits of labor from your backyard garden. With easy, healthy recipes like these, it’s more than just fresh produce.

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