I’ve long been an advocate of every season BUT summer. Hot, humid, languid, permanent afro — none of these qualities are particularly endearing to me. However, while there are rewarding things about gardening in the spring and summer, there is something about a summer garden that is steadily transforming me into a summer lover.

I realized this yesterday morning, which Sprout and I spent under the fig tree. Teaching her how to pick fruit and vegetables for herself and pop them right in her mouth — there is something undeniably fulfilling and magical about this act — and then I remember that it’s not magic — this is one of God’s carefully crafted perfect provisions for us. And that we are richly blessed to have a tangible reminder of the truth that is very, very true, whether we recognize it or not — that God faithfully provides for us every single moment of every single day. That he protects us like he protects the seedings when they’re young and growing. That he lovingly re-shapes us into something even more beautiful when we acknowledge that we’re totally wrecked, like our garden this spring. That he delights in us when we bear fruit.

“These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” Psalm 104:27-28

And as a side note, is there any fruit prettier than a fig?

So, as we’ve harvested veggies from our garden, here are a few of my go-to recipes for fresh summer produce.

Fig Preserves

8 cups of figs
1/2 Tbsp baking soda
6 cups of boiling water
4 cups white sugar
2 cups water
1/2 sliced lemon

In a large mixing bowl place figs and sprinkle with baking soda. Pour the boiling water over the figs and soak for 1 hour.
Drain figs and rinse thoroughly with cold water. In a large Dutch oven combine the sugar and the 4 cups of water; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the figs and lemon slices to the syrup in the Dutch oven and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Spoon figs into hot, sterilized jars and spoon syrup over figs, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Top jars with lids and screw bands on tightly. Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Tomato Sauce

Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh garlic, coarsely chopped with some nice salt and allowed to sit 10 minutes if possible
Plenty of vine-ripened, garden fresh tomatoes cut into chunks (I use a serrated knife)
Fresh basil (at least twice as much as you think seems like the right amount—I measure fresh basil by the handful)
Fresh oregano (more than you’re about to put in)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow the garlic to brown.

Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks out. Cooking time will depend on the juiciness of the tomatoes.

When there is still some liquid left in the pan, carefully puree the sauce using a blender or a food processor.

Bring the sauce back to a boil and continue simmering until desired consistency. Let cool, then spread on pizza dough. (I have a great pizza dough recipe, too — I will get that on here another day)

Squash Cakes (from the kitchen of Brooke Burgess)

2 cups cooked squash, mashed
2/3 cup Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/2 cup chopped onion (I do this in the food processor to get it finely chopped)
1 egg
1/2 c Canola oil

Mix together corn muffin mix, onion, and egg. Add this mixture to the mashed, cooked squash. Heat Canola oil in skillet, then drop large spoonfuls of the batter onto the skillet, and cook a few minutes on each side until golden. The Sprout LOVES these.

Zucchini Bread (also from Brooke’s kitchen)

3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
1 c all purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 c chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs and sugars together. Mix in oil, zucchini, and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and beat into mixture. Stir in chopped nuts. Pour batter into two greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Check at 40 minutes, but cook for one hour. Best if allowed to cool for a few hours after baking.