Colorful summer vegetables
Van Chaplin

Building Blocks

No vegetable garden is complete without these six essentials. From lettuce to cilantro, your kitchen will be stocked through the season.

Juicy tomoato slices
Jim Franco

Summer's Reward

There is nothing as satisfying as announcing to dinner guests that they are eating tomatoes you grew yourself.

Invest in a tomato cage to help support the plant, and trim away suckers (those branches that grow out from the main shoot) to ensure good air circulation, which will deter disease and fungus. A no-fail variety: Sunset’s Red Horizon.

Fresh Basil
Thomas J. Story

Tomato's Best Friend

Plant basil in two batches―early in the season and then a few weeks later―to ensure a constant supply of the tender, flavorful leaves.

Add a ball of buffalo mozzarella, and you have a dinner table hit. At the end of the season, make pesto with the abundant growth and freeze it for a hint of summer during the winter months.

Peppers on the vine
Van Chaplin

Pick a Peck

Tired of paying over a dollar for the nutrition and flavor of a red pepper? They are incredibly easy to grow and will free up your grocery budget for splurges like fresh mozzarella and pine nuts.

Plant a habanero pepper plant if you love the flavors of Latin America. A basket of these heat blasters makes a great hostess gift, especially when you reveal they came from your garden.

Rows of lettuce
Judy White/

Salad Days

Lettuce grows fast from seed, so your family won’t have any excuse to skip their salad all summer long. Plus, the crisp freshness of garden-grown lettuce will make everybody sit up and take notice of the salad course.

Pick the outside leaves first; the rest of the plant will keep growing. For a crowd, cut the whole head off, leaving a couple of inches above the base. The plant will continue to produce more leaves. Try planting arugula for its peppery flavor and quick growing habit.

Fresh Cilantro
Thomas J. Story

Salsa Essential

Cilantro epitomizes the flavor of summer. Make your own salsa with it, add it to soups, or sprinkle it over grilled fish for a healthy summer supper. The leaves look similar to flat-leafed parsley—if you grow both you might need to label them. A great variety: Slow-Bolt, named for its reluctance to go to seed.

Eggplant Parmesean Stacks
James Carrier

Purple in the Face

Grow these as much for their great looks as for their flavor. They’ll make a stunning still life on your kitchen counter until you decide to cook them. Alternate slices of baked eggplant with polenta and mozzarella for a vegetarian Italian entrée that’s molto bene.

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