We love hearing that more and more families are growing their own food, whether veggies in a backyard garden or just potted window sill herbs that kids can help tend. Either way, we’re down with the yard-to-table trend and have rounded up some fantastic recipes to help you use up the most popular homegrown vegetables in delicious—and kid-friendly—ways.
And by the way, these summer vegetable recipes are great even if you’re still making weekly trips to the grocery store, farmer’s market, or CSA pickup. These veggies are the most abundant this season and the family-friendly dishes we found can help you incorporate them into your diet. Or even better, maybe they will inspire you to grow some of your own food. There’s still time and you’d be surprised at how satisfying it can be to grow even just one tomato plant.
I have to be honest that I can’t always tell the difference between store-bought and homegrown veggies, except with tomatoes. A tomato from the grocery store absolutely pales in comparison to a sun-ripened one. Tomatoes need lots of sun, water, and some sort of supporting structure, like a trellis, and not much else. Totally worth it.
This Caprese Panini Sandwich at Heavenly Home Cooking is the perfect meal to show off the sweet, vibrant tomatoes you’ve grown (or picked up from a local farmer). You can also skip the bread and make a caprese salad, but if you ask me, life’s too short to miss out on all that melty cheese and toasty bread. Plus, if there’s any way to get the kids to eat tomatoes, grilled cheese is it.
This recipe for a Cherry Tomato & Feta Tart from Beth Dunham uses up tomatoes and oregano, also popular in backyard gardens. Plus, it uses puff pastry and feta, two of my other favorite ingredients. You cannot go wrong with this as a beautiful appetizer or light meal. And if you haven’t worked with puff pastry before, you’re in for a treat. Nothing is easier.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
Zucchini and other types of squash tend to be nearly unstoppable in the garden, and therefore, great vegetables for first time growers. They just need plenty of water and warm weather, so they’re happiest when they’re not planted too early. If you go for it, or already have, you’ll end up with lots, so keep these recipes close by!
I’ll eat just about anything as a fritter, and kids typically will too, so I was stoked to discover these Oven Baked Zucchini and Feta Cakes (aka fritters) at Cooking LSL. The recipe uses fresh zucchini, dill, and garlic to make surprisingly healthy—but still addictive—cakes that can serve as a side or even as a main paired with a salad.
I love squash, but it tends to be a weak link in a lot of my summer cooking due to the fact that it gets soggy more easily than other veggies. So I love this Baked Summer Squash, which crisps the squash with bread crumbs, Parmesan, and a little oven roasting. The folks at the Kitchn serve it with pasta and pesto, for an easy dinner that kids will love.
These little root veggies are super simple and quick to grow. Just make sure to provide them with plenty of water, and in about three weeks, you’ll have your harvest. And, yes, I know that these peppery little gems aren’t exactly a kid favorite, but when they help grow them and you have the right recipes, you may be surprised at how radishes go over at the table.
Home cooks spend a lot of time trying to dull, cover, or otherwise mute the strong peppery taste of the radish, but I love this recipe because it complements, rather than covers up, radish flavor with creamy butter and crusty bread. The Radish Sandwich with Butter and Salt at NYT Cooking comes together in minutes and is a great way to introduce radishes to kids. Just be sure to cut them super thin—and keep the layer thin too—for milder kid sandwiches.
If the radish sandwich is too much of a dark horse for you or your kids, try this recipe for Roasted Radishes with Red Onions at Girl Gone Gourmet instead. Roasting softens the bite of the radish while caramelizing the onions for all around yum. I think that this recipe would work beautifully alongside the roast chicken that Jane helped us master.
Cucumbers are also easy to grow, and happily, easy to cook with too. They’re a natural fit for kids, even picky eaters, and should definitely be on the top of your backyard garden list. Try the bush variety if you have limited space in your garden.
I am dying to try this 5-Minute Crunchy Asian Lime-Peanut Salad, which is fresh, served cold, and uses up your cucumbers in the tastiest way. Sabrina at Dinner, Then Dessert adapted this from a chicken-topped version at the Chew, but I’m digging this as a light, meatless salad to be eaten on the patio or packed in tupperware for a picnic. Just nix the chili flakes if you’re making this for kids who are sensitive to spicy. And if you don’t have a spiralizer, try this hack to turn vegetables into noodles without a spiralizer.
Before you start making this lovely Cucumber Avocado Soup at Three Beans on a String, know that it takes about an hour of work and then needs to chill. I know, but I had to include it because it uses up a whopping eleven cucumbers! So if you’re overrun—or, uh, abundantly blessed—with cukes in your garden, this recipe will be a life saver. Plus, it’s the perfect cool dinner on a hot night.
Lettuce & Other Leafy Greens
Lettuce is also a delightfully low-maintenance backyard crop, which is awesome since, if you’re like me, you eat it several times a week. Kale and swiss chard are hearty, too, and healthier than your average iceberg lettuce.
If you’ve planted a ton of lettuce, you may get bored of salads, so try these Best Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps for something a little different and absolutely delicious. Dani at The Adventure Bite says that her kids consider these wraps a kind of alternative taco and eat them happily. Good enough for me to give them a try!
I’ve found that most households, like mine, are divided on kale. I love it, but my husband not so much. I like to play a game where I disguise it in various meals and then see if he notices. But with this Kale Pasta Salad at the Pioneer Woman, there’s no need to hide my favorite leafy green. The pasta, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan make it so decadent and yummy, you’ll be creating kale converts wherever you serve this lovely dish.
This Swiss Chard with Pancetta, Corn, and Cannelini Beans at Kitchen Confidante combines some of the garden regulars to make something truly delicious and easy. The salty, savory pancetta balances out all those earthy vegetables, and the corn gives it a little sweetness. If your family likes cowboy caviar, they’ll love this. Oh, and if you can’t find pancetta, bacon will do just fine. Because when does it not?