Classic recipes bring vegetables to the table during strong summer harvest

Thanks to this year’s cooler and dryer weather, local vegetables are tastier and showing up on shelves in robust, beautiful colors ready for some of our classic recipes.

“It’s been a good production year for vegetables, although a short one for tomatoes,” said County agent Rene Schmidt.

Typically, tomatoes are available in early May through June, but this year they started in late May and are finishing by late June or early July.

“Okra is your primary summer crop,” Schmidt said. “The more stressed it becomes from wet or dry weather the greater the production.”

Okra typically produces through October.

Schmidt said this year’s unusually cool weather lent to a dryer season, which plants typically do better in – and they did. Wetter seasons typically pose problems with diseases.

Okra is a mainstay in Cajun Country, but most tables equally feature eggplant, bell peppers, cucumbers, peas and even some leafy vegetables like Swiss chard and mustard greens.

But we can’t leave out tomatoes, which are eaten as a vegetable and a fruit.

Although creole tomatoes had a short season, they produced well and some are still producing although hindered by intense heat, he said. Schmidt said an easy way to stay in tomatoes after the creoles are gone is to have cherry tomatoes.

Melons have also done well, too.

Watermelon, cantaloupe and muskmelon are producing well, he said.

These are the primary vegetables common at many farmer’s markets and grocery stores.

Louisiana is one of the unique states where vegetables can be grown 12 months out of the year, Schmidt said.

As summer winds down in August, gardeners will start planting again for fall and the tomatoes return along with carrots, cucumbers and many leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and mustard greens. Also, cauliflower, broccoli and root crops like beets and turnips make up fall production.

Of course, Schmidt would not leave gardeners without a helpful tip on keeping those vegetables healthy.

In this dryer weather, be vigilant with insect control, but definitely take advantage of the summer harvest.


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