Every spring, I commit to building a stupendous summer garden. I challenge myself in small part to flex my green thumb, and in major part to multiply my food gift potential. I’ll make a food gift from anything I find at the local market (because, of course!) but it’s a pretty big win when I can plant something, water it, harvest it, and then turn it into something special. You know, from nothing to something is pretty amazing.
I start every season with so much ambition for greenish greatness, but I’m sorry to report that last year’s garden was so sad. I poured through seed catalogs and garden web sites, I designed precise layouts, and I even started my seeds eight weeks in advance so they went into the ground just after the last frost. I planted all my raised beds at the right time… only to forgo watering for writing a little thing called a cookbook. It’s not the cookbook’s fault; I love it so much and can’t wait to share it in three months. But without good organization or any sort of reminders, I just forgot to water, forgot to feed the soil, forgot to weed, and even forgot to harvest. Gah.
This year, revved up and ready to succeed, I partnered up with Edyn, a smart garden sensor that tracks weather and garden conditions, helping my garden to finally thrive. (Check out a sincere video from Edyn’s founder.) Just after planting my garden, I placed the sensors in my beds and downloaded the app. Instead of stressing about when to water or feed my dark leafy greens, herbaceous basil and lemon balm, or spicy jalapeños and nasturtium flowers, I tap on the app and take my cues from Edyn’s recommendations – which are wholly based on my plants, my soil and the local weather. It’s the sort of tech gadget that’s absolutely perfect for this tech-gadget-geek-girl. I win by saving time and my favorite people win by reaping a harvest of delicious food gifts. YAY!
With all this extra time (and help from Edyn), I’m now pinning my plans for summer food gifts inspired by my garden. As soon as my plants are ready for harvest, I’ll make, wrap, and share these gorgeous recipes:
Basil: This savory lentil dish – Lentils Folded Into Yogurt, Spinach, and Basil – is just the sort to deliver to or share with a hard-working pal who needs a healthy lunch. I’ve got six basil plants to harvest just for this and for gobs of pesto.
Carrots: I know so many people who want to eat healthy and, even, vegan (including me). I’ll use my carrots in this Carrot Noodles in Peanut Sauce recipe as a potluck gift to wholesome eaters.
Cherries: I’m not growing cherries but I’m buying them, a lot of them. I want to make this Cherry Kompot as a gift to a summer beach party. I bet the kiddies would love it and, with a splash of something strong, the adults may too.
Jalapeños: I typically boil my jalapeño slices in a sugary vinegar bath; they turn into something candied and spicy that gets stored in my Food Gift Love pantry for holiday gifts (you’ll get the recipe in my cookbook). This year, I’ll also combine them with strawberries by riffing off this recipe for Strawberry Chile Syrup.
Kale: My garden has a solid row of baby kale rising through the ranks and it definitely belongs in a jar of this Mellow Kale Pesto. I’ll gift it with some dried pasta to a neighbor, family member or someone who needs an easy Sunday night dinner.
Lemon Balm: I always plant a gigantic pot of lemon balm, an herb in the mint family that’s popular in aromatherapy (smells like lemon) and also known for calming nerves when sipped in a tea. I infuse lemon balm into local honey and take a spoonful at the first feeling of a cold. I’ll also turn it into Herb Jelly (for a teacher’s gift) and this Honey Lemon Balm Spritzer (for a summer party with teachers and everyone else!)
Melons: My pal Melissa of the Fauxmartha always knows what I want to drink on the weekend. This Melon Ball Cocktail will change up how I use my garden melons the moment they’re ready for harvest in late summer. I plan to prep a pretty jug with the wine and melon in advance, and gift it alongside a bottle of seltzer to a backyard picnic.
MORE: This Fig & Melon Martini is another way to drink up that melon.
Nasturtium Flowers: A big salad with a great dressing is the kind of gift every hostess wants at the ready. I’ll contribute this Tomato Nasturtium Salad with Dates and Pistachios as a fresh summer gift to a barbecue. Gift the salad separate from the dressing, pouring it over the salad just before serving or, better yet, make the dressing in a big bowl, lay the salad ingredients on top of the dressing, and toss just before serving.
Raspberries: I picked a bunch of raspberries and, inspired by this recipe for Raspberry Almond Gin, I immediately soaked them in vodka with almonds. The resulting spirited gift is so fragrant and sweet with a glorious nutty base. Deliver it with seltzer and a pile of limes for squeezing.
Strawberries: I can’t wait to make this Strawberry Coconut Milk for me or a friend’s 10-year-old son (he loves strawberries) or, well, maybe a lot more for me. Seriously, poured into a large narrow bottle and wrapped with a length of white ribbon, there may not be a much better gift for enjoying right this very moment.
MORE: Drink that Strawberry Coconut Milk with the cookies in this gift collection.
Bonus Food Gift:
Tomatoes: I’ve got ten tomato plants coming to life out back. Naturally, I’ll water bath can a lot of the harvest for tomato sauce (such a nice gift with fresh pasta) but this Tomato Basil Jam is a classic and one of my favorite food gifts of all time, definitely. I included a recipe for my super quick version in my cookbook, which you’ll have soon!
This story was written in partnership with Edyn. I’m really grateful for the chance to test out their garden sensors; they’ve totally changed my food gift life.
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is now focused on opening her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: Recipes That Revamped My Pantry & Made Me Love Me, At Last, will be published by Roost Books/Penguin Random House in 2019. Her first cookbook, Food Gift Love, features more than 100 food gift recipes to make, wrap, and share and is available wherever you find favorite cookbooks.