The Coastal Gardener: Summer vegetables that love the heat

June 03, 2011|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • Charentais' cantaloupes are considered by many to be the most flavorful melon in the world. The sweet flavor, perfect texture and heavenly aroma is what home-grown summer fruits and vegetables are all about.
Charentais' cantaloupes are considered by many… (Ron Vanderhoff,…)

May and June is the perfect time to plant heat-loving summer vegetables. Planted too early, they sulk — planted too late, their season is cut short. Some plants just tolerate summer, but these sizzlers actually prefer the heat, bright light and long days of the summer months ahead.

Some of these summer specialties are started from transplants, but others are best from seed.

It seems that growing plants from seed is almost a lost art in many gardens. However, with only slightly more effort, growing a few vegetables from seed will reward you with many more choices and even better flavor.

Sow seeds now of lima and snap beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, soybeans and squash. These are all large seeds that are easy to plant and quick to germinate.

Another advantage of most summer vegetables is that they offer a long harvest. Unlike the all-at-once scenario of many cool-season crops like lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, radish and others, most of these summer vegetables will offer their bounty over a two- or three-month period.


My favorite vegetable of the summer is fresh beans.

On seed racks you will find nearly endless green bean choices (also called snap beans). While perusing the choices, search for any variety labeled either haricot verts or French filet beans; these are the same bean as those served at fine restaurants. It is a slender, flavorful and stringless green bean.

Pick haricot verts fresh from the garden all summer and simply add them straight to boiling salted water. Cook for about four minutes, until they are crispy-tender. Don't overcook or fresh beans will become limp and mushy.

Then immediately shock them in an ice bath to set their color and stop the cooking. To serve warm, sauté the beans gently in butter or olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Haricot verts are the green bean.

A perfect companion for beans in the summer garden is squash, especially zucchini and its many cousins. The best of all the summer squash is also a French heirloom by the name ronde de nice, but sometimes called baby round. Only grown from seed, the thin skin and delicate flesh will bruise easily, so you'll never find these delicacies in supermarkets. All summer squash, like ronde de nice, are simple to grow from seed.

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