Make the Most of Summer Produce (Ultimate Recipe Swap)

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Make the most of summer produce sales and freshness! Check out this round up of recipes featuring what’s at its peak during the summertime.

Sometime last August, our family started subscribing to a weekly produce delivery. To say that it has changed the way we cook and eat is an understatement.

Ours is a year-round organic produce co-op. Unlike a typical CSA (community-supported agriculture) these fruits and vegetables are not grown in our county, but they are grown in state and without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. They’re also extremely reasonably priced.

Each week we open our box to see what goodies are in store. On Fridays, I get a heads up about what will be in the box so that I can plan well. But, the amount and the quality is always a surprise. Usually it’s abundant and exceeds our expectations. On the off week when things aren’t so much, the folks at Abundant Harvest Organics are quick to replace it.

Make the most of summer produce.

As a family, we’ve learned more about the California growing season as well as explored a whole range of tastes and textures. Plus, I’ve tried my hand at blanching, pickling, and jamming on a more regular basis.

The key to making the most of summer produce is knowing what to do with it when if comes your way. Maybe you find a great sale at the grocery store or a neighbor ding-dong ditches a barrel of zucchini on your front step. Maybe your produce box is full of something you don’t know what to do with.

You need to be prepared with an arsenal of recipes so that you can make the most of the onslaught of tasty fruit and veg.

If you’ve got a plentiful garden, belong to a CSA, or just want to make the most out of summer produce, here are some great recipes to try out with what’s fresh at hand. The list below culls from what’s in season during the summer months.

All I can say is, “Bon Appetit!”


My dad recently brought me 15 pounds of zucchini, despite my protests that AHO was doing a great job keeping me supplied. I baked and sauteed a lot of it. And then grated and froze what was left when I just couldn’t stand the sight of it. I know more’s in store for the coming weeks, so I’m brushing up on my zucchini recipes.

Zucchini is considered a high-risk crop for GMO’s. It’s in your best interests to plant or buy organic zucchini.


There is nothing like a homegrown tomato. That is my one regret at not having the time, space, or resources for a home garden – no tomatoes in the backyard. Yum! We love to slice beefsteak tomatoes, drizzle them with vinaigrette or creamy caesar dressing and just eat them plain. So good!

When we did have a large garden, I gave two dehydrators a workout turning our roma tomatoes into the “sundried” version. Yum!

Nowadays, we usually enjoy tomatoes in salads, tacos, and sandwiches. I very rarely run out of uses, but when we have a surplus, they usually go into homemade pico de gallo. There’s rarely any leftover.

But, I’ve got plenty of yummy recipes that call for fresh tomatoes.


Peppers are something that my dad grew a ton of when I was growing up. We ate them a lot throughout the summer. I loved it when he left them on the plant long enough to turn red. Did you know that some varieties will do this naturally? The red flesh was so crispy and sweet.

Since peppers are on the Dirty Dozen of foods with the most pesticide residue, I try to make sure that we’re only eating the organic variety. My kids all will eat them off a veggie tray, especially the sweet red ones.

Quite a few of us, though enjoy the spicy varieties as well, making peppers and chiles a welcome addition to our kitchen.


Hubby ranks a good peach as his favorite fruit. However, there are only so many fresh peaches one can eat. Unfortunately, none of us like the taste of cooked peaches, so pies and crumbles are out for our family. We enjoy it fresh, chopped into salsa or topping a shortcake.

Peaches are another of the Dirty Dozen so be sure to buy the organic variety if you can.


I’ve never had a problem with surplus watermelon. Drips on the counter? Yes, but this fixes that.

Using up surplus watermelon? Not typically an issue. My kids can eat a small watermelon in one sitting. Easily. We tried watermelon lemonade once, but no one liked it. So, we just eat our watermelon freshly sliced or cubed into a fruit salad.

Watermelon is listed on the Clean 15 of produce with the least pesticide residue, so I have no qualms about buying the conventional kind when I see a great deal.

photo source: Shaina


This is, indeed, plum season. We went through more than 15 pounds last month. We ate them fresh as well as made plum jam and plum sorbet and plum popsicles. And then we ran out.

I’m looking forward to baking with them in this cake should we get some more in the produce box.


Basil is a tricky thing to store. We’ve gotten beautiful bouquets of basil over the last year. Until I got the hang of it, it often wilted into a sad, black mess. I’ve come up empty handed on the best storage method, so my trick is to use it right away — or grow your own and just pick it as needed.

If you do get it in your produce box this summer, use it right away. Easy ways to do this is to make a rustic basil sauce. This is a nut-free, dairy-free version of pesto and is so versatile! Store it in the freezer if you don’t eat it all up right away.

Other uses for basil:


Last September I stocked up on the end-of-the-season corn. I blanched it and stored it in the freezer.

To blanch corn for freezing: Blanch in boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from pot and immediately plunge into cold water for 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain and dry. Cut kernels from cob and package for freezing. Freeze.

We enjoyed tastes of summer all year long.

And this week’s produce box held the first of the season. Yeah! I know you might not have sweet corn just yet in your neck of the woods, but it’s coming soon! (I know this because my dad was a Minnesota corn farmer and the corn plants should be knee-high right about now.)

While corn shows up on the Clean 15 list for pesticides, it’s unfortunate that most conventional corn in the US has been genetically modified. Unless it’s organic, you can almost bet it will be a GMO. (Check here for a list of GMO high-risk crops.)


I don’t honestly believe that the general public consumes a lot of eggplant, but it seems to be ubiquitous in produce boxes everywhere! Maybe this is because the general public does not consume a lot of eggplant, and they need to get rid of the excess harvest on us.

Regardless, I’ve found some tasty ways to incorporate eggplant into our diet. My new cookbook features it in a number of recipes, including a delicious and easy Ratatouille. (Preorder. Cough. cough.)

I’ve also discovered that eggplant cooked with other vegetables until soft blends into a wonderfully flavorful sauce that disappears into soups, sauces, and chilis. Oh, yes, it does. Just ask my people about that great chili they devoured! They saw no eggplant. No eggplant. (Ahem.)


I never knew that I liked blueberries until I had them fresh. Crisp and crunchy fresh. Wow! Who knew?

The blueberries I knew were soggy and mushy. These were amazing. While frozen berries are great for smoothies and baking, only fresh will do for plain ol’ eating. Yum!

Domestic blueberries are on the Dirty Dozen list, so be sure to buy organic if you can.

Make the most of summer produce!

Not only will you save money by purchasing these items when they are most plentiful but you’ll also enjoy them at their peak of freshness and flavor. I’m learning the value of eating seasonally. Not only is it cost effective and tastier, but this melange of summer produce makes the months of June, July, and August that much more precious.

Ultimate Recipe Swap

URS Guidelines

Remember: Each week at Ultimate Recipe Swap, there is a posted theme. You are welcome to share any recipe that fits the theme and contains a link back to Life as MOM. If you’re curious about the upcoming themes, I have a calendar here. This week’s theme is Summer Produce.

If you have a recipe that fits the theme, please link it. However, things like Beef Strogonaff will be deleted from Chicken week because it doesn’t contain chicken. Please keep this meme as helpful to others as we can.

And don’t make me the bad guy! ;)

What is your favorite recipe for summer produce?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Our summer produce is just starting to come in. Love this time of year!

  2. Thank you for hosting. I shared my oven baked zucchini strips. I’m guilty of making them in the winter too because they taste so good.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Those sound like a good way to use it.

  3. No specific recipe: just eat as needed, and repeat. LOL That takes care of a lot of the produce from our 4000 square foot veggie garden; the rest we preserve.

    I linked to my basil recipes.

  4. We spend so much of each summer enjoying fresh garden produce or preserving it that it turns out I have posted about this topic quite a few times.

    I’m having a blast linking up my garden recipes…but it will take me a few minutes to put the links back to the Ultimate Recipe Swap into each post. So don’t delete them all yet! 🙂

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Thanks for your diligence to link back!

  5. Stefanie says

    I don’t blog, but I wanted to share that zucchini can be canned.

    4qts peeled, seeded, and cubed zucchini
    1 1/2c lemon juice
    1 46oz can unsweetened pineapple juice
    3 cups of sugar

    Simmer for 20 min
    Put into clean hot pint jars
    Follow standard procedure for water bath
    Process for 15 min

    It will take on the pineapple flavor.

  6. Thanks for the party! Have a great week!

    Be sure to check out my latest recipe @

  7. Jacie says

    Jessica, I’ve found the best way to store basil is just to put it in a jar/vase of water and leave it on the kitchen counter. Basil does not like cold, so that’s why it turns black in the fridge. If you just put the stems in water, it will keep as a terrific smelling “herb bouquet” for quite a long time!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yeah, I tried that. It was wilted by the following morning. Really wanted that one to work, too!

  8. Diana says

    I froze my basil leaves last year. They worked great to add to stir-fries, soups, veggie sautees (not sure of the plural on that word; help me out, French major! 🙂 ). Not sure if the frozen leaves would work in pesto or not though. Love the fresh produce we get in summer!

  9. Wow…love all these ideas for enjoying summer produce. Thanks for this post!

  10. I am going to have fun with this list!

    We had a ton of tomatoes today so I threw them in my crock pot with some chicken and seasoning and shallots (also from the garden). I’m hoping for something rustic and tasty…we’ll see!

    I linked my watermelon syrup that I’ve been loving over fruit salad.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Sounds like a tasty experiment!

  11. victoria says

    WOW, seedless watermelon 4 for $5?! Here in New England, the cheapest is 3.68 for one.

  12. I don’t understand your statement that “there are only so many fresh peaches one can eat.” As a peach fanatic I’ve never experienced such a situation. 😉

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Well, they usually get wrinkly before we can eat them all (if we get a ton at one time.)

  13. soccermom says

    My kids’ favorite way to eat blueberries (unless it’s in a muffin) is to eat them frozen, one by one. Taste like blueberry popsicles! If you haven’t tried that yet, wash, dry, and freeze a few on a cookie sheet to see if they like them that way. You get the crispy crunch you mentioned along with icy cold refreshment. Yum!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Do they get rock hard like frozen grapes? (I have a hard time eating those. Too cold.)

  14. Nia says

    Just wanted to say thanks for this great list. I’m excited to use up my AHO produce in these new-to-me recipes.

  15. Angela Mayer says

    We enjoy Abundant Harvest Organics, too! In fact, I have 60 pounds of Zee Lady peaches sitting in my laundry room right now, waiting to be frozen…or eaten. Thank you for sharing your ideas!

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