Recipes from the Garden

  1. Homemade Caramel Apple & Pear Fig Honey Butter Recipes

    apple butter on wood background. toning. selective focus

    Caramel apple butter is a delicious holiday treat!

    Tart, spicy, fragrant fruit butters are great winter treats that can be canned and shared as holiday gifts. Apples and winter pears are in season, so there are no better fruits for making dessert-quality spreads perfect for spreading on buttery toast, dipping with salty pretzels, or dolloping onto spice cookies. If you have your own apple and pear trees, even better! [Click here to learn how to grow your own winter pears!}

    These butters are simple to make but require some patience. The key to their deliciousness is perfect caramelization and thickness, so be sure they are perfectly cooked before canning! As pre-preparation, be sure to have sterile canning jars on hand. Well-cooked spreads such as these are perfect for those just learning to can at home (canning instructions are below). Place a pretty label on the jar, top it with a bow, and bring a few jars to your next holiday party!

    Caramel Apple Butter

    Tart apples are rounded by the milky sweetness of caramel. Sweet/tart sauce apples like ‘Gravenstein’, ‘Jonathan’, ‘Cortland’ and ‘McIntosh’ make excellent butter. A touch of salt is crucial for flavor. Can this yummy spread for holiday gift giving or personal enjoyment. It’s decadent stuff!


    • 3 lbs. apples (about 9 medium apples) – peeled, cored and roughly chopped
    • ½ cup water
    • ¾ cups light brown sugar
    • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
    • ½ teaspoon allspice
    • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 15 caramels


    1. Add the apples and ½ cup of water to a large, sturdy sauce pan. Cover and simmer until the apples are soft but intact (15–20 minutes).
    2. Allow the apples to cool, and then strain them in a colander to remove any excess liquid.
    3. Transfer the apples into a food processor and puree them until smooth.
    4. Place the apple puree back in the pot and set the stove to medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low if it starts to bubble.
    5. Add the sugar, caramels, and salt, then simmer, stirring occasionally.
    6. After 3–4 hours the butter should be thick and caramel-colored.
    7. Use the dab test to check if the butter is ready. Dab a bit onto a plate; if no residual liquid oozes from the edge, and the butter remains mounded, it’s ready.
    8. Add the spices  and stir. Keep the butter on low heat until you’re ready to can it.

    This recipe makes around four 4-oz. jars of butter that can be canned or stored in airtight containers for freezing or refrigeration.

    Apple Butter Sm

    Caramel Apple Butter Ingredients



    Start by peeling and roughly chopping the apples


    Cook the apples are soft but intact (15–20 minutes).


    Puree the softened apples and then return them to the pot.


    Add the caramels, brown sugar, and salt, and cook the butter down on low heat for 2-3 hours.


    Do the dab test. The butter on the right is fully caramelized and ready. The butter on the left is still watery and underdone.


    Can and label your finished butter using the instructions below.

    Pear Fig Honey Butter

    This decadent fruit butter tastes great on morning toast or dolloped between crisp butter cookies.


    Honey, Fig, Pear Butter ingredients


    • 9 soft Bosc or Comice pears – peeled, cored and chopped
    • 1/2 cup raw, wildflower honey
    • 1 cup chopped dried figs
    • the juice of one lemon
    • Pinch of salt to taste


    1. Puree pears and figs in a food processor until smooth.
    2. Place the puree in a sturdy, large pot and set the stove to medium-low heat. (Reduce to low if it starts to bubble).
    3. Add the honey and salt, and mix until blended.
    4. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the butter becomes reduced by half. This should take around 2-3 hours (sometimes more).
    5. The finished butter should be fully caramelized, thickened and ready to can.

    This recipe makes around four 4-oz. jars of butter. Enjoy!

    Canning Instructions


    Canning Pot with Jar Rack
    Four 4-oz or two 8-oz jars for canning
    Canning Jar Lifter
    Canning Lids and Screw Bands (new)
    Labels and Permanent Marker
    Wide-mouthed Jar Funnel


    1. Wash your hands and work space before starting.
    1. Sterilize jars by filling a large pot with water to a depth that will cover them. Submerge the jars, screw bands, and lids into the hot water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the hot jars with clean tongs while gently pouring the hot water out before removal. Place the jars upside down on a clean towel. Only touch the jar exteriors (Keep the canning pot with hot lids simmering.)
    1. Using a clean ladle and wide-mouthed funnel, fill the jars with hot, prepared fruit butter. Fill until there is an inch of head space at the top of the jar. Wipe messy jar rims with a clean cloth.
    1. Remove the sterilized lids and screw bands from the hot water and place them on the jars–being sure not to touch the inner lids. Make sure the lids are firmly down and screw bands lightly tightened. Manufacturer’s instructions may vary so follow those on the box.
    1. Place the jars on the jar rack and lower them into the pot of hot canning water, if you have no rack lower the jars in with a canning jar lifter being sure to keep jars from touching. Cover the canning pot and keep at a low boil for 10 minutes.
    1. Remove the jars from the pot and place them on towels to cool. Fully tighten the screw bands. Once cool, dry the outsides thoroughly and apply labels. Include the butter type and date.
    1. After jars have set for 12 hours, check for success.  If the lids are tight, air free and cannot be pressed down, they’re fine. If they pop down, they are improperly sealed, but don’t throw them away. You can either put them in the refrigerator for immediate use or try to re-cap them using steps 4 through 6. As a general rule, canned food is best used in the first year. Store your butters in a cool dry place.


  2. Homemade Pico De Gallo

    fresh-tomato-salsa-300x225Feeling a little spicy after you have harvested your fresh veggies?  This pico de gallo recipe tastes delicious with crunchy tortilla chips or as a taco topper.


    • 2-3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced
    • 1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
    • 1 serrano chili pepper, finely chopped
    • Juice of one lime
    • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
    • Salt and pepper (to taste)
    • Cumin (optional)

    After dicing and chopping, combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Season to taste. If the chili make the pico too hot, add more tomatoes. Wear gloves when preparing chili peppers and don’t touch your eyes. Set aside for one hour in order to for the flavors to blend together. Enjoy!

  3. Grilled Beef & Vegetable Shish Kabobs

    kabob-300x300Sometimes it’s easy to get in a barbecuing rut when the solution is right in front of you! If you are vegetable gardener, grab your favorite veggies from your garden, skewer them up, and grill.


    1 cup boiled red new potatoes, quartered
    1 cup red, yellow, or green bell pepper chunks
    1 cup red onion chunks
    1 cup white button mushrooms
    1 cup zucchini or yellow squash chunks
    1 cup cherry tomatoes
    3 cups sirloin chunks

    Garlic & Herb Marinade

    1/2 cup olive oil
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    2 tablespoons agave syrup
    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together and refrigerate in a covered container or use right away. Before grilling, toss the vegetables in the  marinade, and allow them to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Skewer the vegetables and beef chunks, and grill them for 4-5 minutes on each side.

  4. Fresh Greek Salad


    Greek Salad (image by Cyclonebill)

    Are you looking for something a little different to bring to that next potluck? Try this delicious Greek vegetable salad that you can make with veggies straight from your garden!  It is wonderful by itself, as a side salad, or scooped up with slices of warm pita bread.

    2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
    1 large English cucumber, sliced
    1 red bell pepper, seeded and chunked
    1 cup fresh feta chunks
    1/2 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
    3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    Extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle
    Fresh cracked pepper

    Mix the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and olives together and top with feta and red onions. Drizzle with red wine vinegar, and olive oil and then sprinkle with the oregano and black pepper. Serve and enjoy!

  5. Crunchy Tomato Bruschetta


    Classic tomato bruschetta (image by Takeaway)

    Bruschetta is simple, homespun antipasto that originates from Italy. It consists of simple grilled or toasted bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with salads, meats, or cheeses.

    The most classic version is tomato bruschetta, which is most decadent in summer when tomatoes are fresh. This recipe is surprisingly simple and incredibly delicious. The key is toasting the bread until it is beautifully crunchy and finishing with high-quality olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.

    The key to correct Italian bruschetta is grilling the bread using a brustolina, a specialized stovetop grill for gas stoves. The bread is simply grilled on the heated brustolina until brown on each side. Since most American cooks don’t have one, an oven broiler works just as well.

    Salad Ingredients

    6 or 7 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
    4 chopped fresh basil leaves
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
    Extra basil leaves for garnish (optional)

    Crostini Ingredients

    1 long Italian loaf or baguette, cut in 1/2 inch thick slices
    2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    1/4 cup olive oil


    Set your oven to broil and preheat, making sure the oven rack is set on the middle shelf. Mix the olive oil and garlic oil. Place the sliced bread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each slice of bread with the garlic/olive oil mixture, making sure to coat each side. Place the bread under the broiler, and bake for 3-4 minutes per side, or until each side is golden brown. You must keep a close watch on the bread to keep it from burning. Once the crostini are out of the oven, dust them lightly with salt.

    Make the tomato salad by mixing the chopped tomatoes with the basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Allow the flavors to marry for at least 30 minutes before serving.

    Dress your crostini with the salad only when you are ready to serve your bruschetta because the salad will slowly make the bread soggy. To serve, place the tomato mixture on the bread and dress with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, an extra drizzle of aged or reduced balsamic vinegar, and/or a basil leaf.

  6. Fresh Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

    blueberry-scones-300x197There’s nothing like the smell of fresh-baked blueberry scones , especially when a key ingredient is from your own garden. Market or garden-fresh blueberries make this recipe taste great, and freshly grated lemon zest gives that extra pop of flavor. For even more sweetness and decadence, drizzle with fresh lemon glaze while the scones are still warm.

    Scone Ingredients

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed
    1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing on top
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten

    Lemon Glaze Ingredients

    1 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
    2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 teaspoon salted butter, melted


    For this simple recipe, start by adding all of the dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk them together. Cut the cold butter into the mixture until crumbly. Whisk together the cream, egg, and lemon zest in a liquid measuring cup. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry until the dough just comes together, fold in the blueberries. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and lightly knead, gently turning and folding the mix eight to ten times. (Too much kneading will result in tough scones!) Roll the dough to 1-inch-thick, 4-inch-round circles and cut them into quarters. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, and voila!

  7. Seasonal Vichyssoise

    VischyThere’s nothing like seasonal produce. In spring, garden-fresh spinach, tender snap peas, spring onions, and asparagus grace our tables. In fall, we can look forward to kale, arugula, and Swiss chard. One easy, tasty way to make use of an overload of seasonal vegetables is by making a pot of vegetable vichyssoise, a creamy potato and leek soup that originates from France. This delicate soup can be eaten hot or cold, so it’s perfect for warm or cool days. And, it’s so good that your friends will be asking for the recipe!


    1 tablespoon butter

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

    3 cups sliced leeks and/or onions

    3 cups coarsely chopped spinach, kale, chard, arugula, asparagus, or snap peas (strings removed)

    2.5 cups chopped peeled potatoes

    1 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon white pepper

    1/2 cup half and half


    Chop and prepare all ingredients before beginning. In a large pot, add the butter and oil and heat until it begins to sizzle. Add the onions or leeks and cook until translucent and soft (7-10 minutes). Add the stock, chopped potatoes, veggies, salt, and pepper and heat to a rolling boil then turn it down to medium-low heat. Simmer the soup for 25 to 30 minutes then remove from the heat and cool for another 30 minutes. Add the soup to a blender or food processor and mix until smooth, and then add the half and half.

    This soup tastes delicious with a drizzle of hot sauce and looks pretty garnished with fresh herbs from the garden.

  8. Easy Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream

    zucchinicupcakesIf you have fresh or canned pumpkin, try this sweet seasonal dessert! These pumpkin cupcakes are something the whole family will love, and they are so easy.

    If pumpkin is not available, you can also use shredded zucchini, carrot, or mashed sweet potato in its place. Gather the following ingredients and preheat the oven to 350° F.

    Cake Ingredients

    • 1 package (18-1/4 ounces) spice cake mix
    • 1-1/3 cups water
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup canned pumpkin or fresh processed pumpkin
    • 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
    • 1/4 chopped walnuts (optional)


    In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, water, oil and eggs. Beat these ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium for another 2 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, raisins, and walnuts. Line a cupcake pan with muffin cups. Fill the cups a little over half way with batter.

    Bake the cupcakes at 350° for 18-22 minutes. Before removing from the oven, test a cake with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, they are done. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan. They must be completely cool before frosting. Be sure to add a generous amount!


    Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

    • 2 sticks butter, softened
    • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk


    For frosting, in a small bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and enough milk to achieve a spreading consistency. Add the frosting to a piping bag, and pipe it on to make it look extra pretty.

    Processing Fresh Pumpkin

    Fresh pumpkin and winter squash make recipes taste better. Small pie pumpkins are easiest to process because of their manageable size.

    Begin by cutting your pumpkin in half and cleaning out the seeds. (Set aside the seeds for roasting!) Place the pumpkin halves face down in a large pan filled with 2 to 3 inches of water. Set the pan on high heat and bring the water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, take the heat down to a low boil, and allow the halves to steam for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Allow the halves to cool before scooping.

    If the pumpkin is stringy, puree it in a food processor until smooth. Processed fresh pumpkin is great for baking or adding to soup.

  9. Tangy Mediterranean Potato Salad

    tangy-potato-salad1Looking for the perfect side dish for your next barbecue? Try this tangy Mediterranean potato salad that incorporates a wide variety of veggies straight from your garden.

    Not only is this recipe delicious, but you can also show off what you’ve been growing! Fresh corn, basil, and tomatoes are three summer ingredients you may be able to harvest for it.


    • 1 pound small yellow or red new potatoes, quartered
    • 2 fresh ears of sweet corn, cooked and cut from the cob.
    • 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or red onion
    • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    • Fresh basil leaves

    Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and add enough water to just cover them. Bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook them at a low boil until fork tender, for 15 minutes. Drain and cool the potatoes before cutting them into quarters.

    Add the potatoes, corn, torn basil leaves, and tomatoes in a large bowl. For the dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallots/onions, Dijon mustard, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and shake well—making sure the lid is tightly secured. Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and gently incorporate all of the ingredients.

    Pour the salad out on a large serving platter and sprinkle with feta cheese and basil leaves. It makes 8-10 servings. Enjoy!

  10. DIY Herbal Remedies for Colds

    IMG_9986It’s that time of the season! No, I don’t mean the holiday season; I mean the season for colds, flu and other bugs that bring us down in winter. Despite flu shots, good care, vitamins and other attempts to ward them off, these bugs always arrive, unwelcome and uninvited. So, how do you treat them other than using standard medications? Herbs and natural remedies, of course!

    There’s nothing like garlic from the garden for herbal cold infusions.

    During the summer months, I grow plenty of herbs for teas, salves, soaps and tinctures that I use in the winter months. Some years I also grow medicinal herbs indoors on my sunny kitchen windowsill. They are cheap and effective, while also smelling pleasant and tasting good. Even nicer, some of the best grow like weeds, to include peppermint, chamomile, garlic, cayenne pepper, lavender and elderberry. Others, like ginger, are tender plants that can be grown indoors in winter or outdoors in summer.

    Anyone who has grown the classic herbs peppermint and chamomile know that they’re wild and must be kept in bounds. Nonetheless, their usefulness far outweighs their weediness.

    German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a sun-loving herb that generally germinates in spring and summer, remains a low-growing foliage rosette through winter, and blooms in spring, producing a cloud of little white daisies. These choice flowers should be harvested at their prime and quickly dried to make herbal tea or inhalations. (Be cautious about letting them set seed; they become weedy!) A combination of dried orange peel and dried chamomile flowers makes a lovely tea and inhalant that will ease the stomach and gently clear the sinuses. Just add one teaspoon of dried orange peel and three tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers to two cups of boiling boiled water. Steep it for a few minutes, for tea, or breathe it in.

    Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) has rhizomatous roots that spread like wildfire, so I grow mine in large pots in sunny spots. The summer foliage and flowers are easily harvested and dried for year-round use. Peppermint can be used to make inhalations and compresses as well as head-clearing tea. A good, simple mint tea recipe for colds contains two teaspoons dried elderberries, two tablespoons dried peppermint leaves and a few peppercorns to fire up the spice. Add this mix to three cups of boiling water, steep for a few minutes and serve with honey.

    Flowering German chamomile plants encircle a garden space.

    Garlic has proven cold-fighting benefits and is truly a plant-and-leave-it crop requiring next to no care; just plant it in rich, well-drained soil in fall, and let it grow and bulb up in spring and summer. As any garlic grower can tell you, garden-fresh garlic is worlds better than the store stuff. Still, grocery garlic works just as well as a cold fighter.

    Fresh lemon garlic tea is a standby infusion for cold sufferers. Simply add three large (or four small) sliced garlic cloves and the zest and juice of two lemons to three cups of boiling water in a saucepan. Allow the mix to boil for 5 minutes before removing from the heat and straining. Add a teaspoon of honey to each cup, and you have a truly useful cold treatment.

    Nothing clears the head and chest like something spicy. That’s why cayenne (Capsicum annuum) is sought after as an herbal remedy for cold sufferers. The sun- and heat-loving veggies are easy as pie to grow during the summer months and are easily dried when red and ripe. Crushed cayenne can be added to any simple herbal tea as a stimulant to get the blood flowing. It is believed to help with headache pain and clear stuffy heads.

    Peppermint flowers and leaves can be used to make tea.

    Lavender (Lavandula spp.) is one of the most beautiful, sun-loving plants, and its dried fragrant flowers are a versatile herbal. Not only can they be added to soaps and creams, but they make a wonderful cold inhalant when infused with one tablespoon eucalyptus leaves and two tablespoons of lavender flowers. The two fragrant botanicals are harmonious partners. In fact, their oils may help to relieve depression, inflammation and congestion, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Gardeners with a good bit of space can and should grow elderberries (Sambucus spp.). Not only do they make delicious jam, juice and wine, they are also healthful and medicinal. The shrubs can grow in full sun or partial shade, though plants grown in higher light yield more fruits. Umbels of edible yellowish spring flowers give way to edible black berries in late summer.  Both the flowers and berries can be dried to make teas. The berries also make delicious syrup that can be used to sweeten and flavor any herbal tea. All are believed to alleviate cough and allergy symptoms.

    Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis 'Nova' JaKMPM

    Elderberries can be dried and added to various herbal tea remedies.

    Ginger root (Zingiber officinal) is delicious and desirable in more ways than one. Like cayenne, it’s spicy, so it acts as a stimulant that gets the blood flowing and clears the head and sinuses when added to tea or an infusion. It also helps sooth stomach when added to tea. Ginger is most easily grown in a pot outdoors in summer or in a sunny window or sun room in winter. It’s plump, spicy roots can be harvested as needed.  For delicious fresh ginger tea, boil five large slices of ginger root in three cups of water with a cinnamon stick for a few minutes, strain and serve with honey.

    All of the plants mentioned grow best in soils with average to good fertility and porous drainage. Before planting them in spring, amendment with Fafard Premium Topsoil will ensure good growth for the growing months. Likewise, ginger plants grown indoors thrive when planted in Fafard Organic Potting Mix.

    Two great reference books for medicinal herbal plants are the recent book Grow It Heal It by Christopher Hobbs and Leslie Gardener (Rodale Books, 2013) and the classic Complete Medical Herbal by Penelope Ody (DK, 1993).

    Though all of these herbal remedies are deemed safe by health experts, it’s always smart to talk to your doctor before partaking in any garden herbs. Also, be sure you have no allergies to these plants before using them. Some planning ahead is required if you want to grow your own herbal remedies, but when the winter sniffles arrive, you will be glad you broke ground and took the time.