Gifts From the Garden

Summer gardens are in full production mode now, but as we reap the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor, what is to be done with the surplus? What can be done to make those extra zucchinis look tastier and more appealing? Try displaying them in a basket rather than packing them into a boring grocery bag. Gift baskets are a great way to make anyone feel special and have the added benefit of leaving a good impression of the designer on the recipient.

This project is fairly simple and once you’ve created one, you will wonder why you never made a basket like this before. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Take a look at the garden’s bounty.
  2. Find a basket that is large enough to hold what you have selected.
  3. Cushion the bottom of the basket with decorative straw basket filler. Use a couple of placemats or colorful napkins to cover it and line the basket.
  4. Put large heavy items like zucchini, corn and cucumbers in the basket first. Wine would also be placed in the basket first, followed by other bottles like oils and vinegar, then light items like tomatoes and peppers in the front.
  5. Add small items like beans, chile peppers, and fresh herbs on the top.
  6. Top it off with a bow.

You could also create a themed basket:

Veggies on the Grill: corn on the cob, green and red peppers, eggplant, zucchini and a bottle of olive oil.

Salsa Fun: tomatoes, green bell peppers, chili peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro and a recipe card; all that, and a bag of tortilla chips.

Bruschetta for Two: tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil leaves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a loaf of either French or Italian bread.

Gazpacho Basket: cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, onion, parsley, olive oil and vinegar, in addition to a recipe card.

Not for Kids: okra, lima beans, onions, brussels sprouts, leeks, beets, broccoli, hot peppers, cabbage, zucchini and a summer ale beer sampler.

Just for Kids: corn on the cob, mini pumpkins, cherry tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and berry fruits, like raspberry and blackberries.

Bread Makers: zucchini, garlic, pumpkin, onions, and herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage, a bag of flour and a few packets of yeast.

Choose the right basket for the project; they can be found in hundreds of shapes, sizes and even colors. Craft stores are great places to find baskets, but keep an eye out because any given store may have one that works perfectly.

Consider adding some other bought items to the basket: herb vinegar, wooden skewers, dried pasta, napkins and rings to match, a pepper and salt mill, flavored olive oil, cork screw, grill tool set, oven mitts, Parmesan cheese wedge and a cheese grater, citronella candle, or some favorite recipes.

There is something about locally grown fruits and vegetables that make them taste better. It has to do with having spent more time in the sunshine growing.  Picked right out of the backyard garden, this produce has never even seen the inside of a refrigerator – talk about fresh. Who wouldn’t enjoy a gift straight from the garden? Nevertheless, the most important thing is to make sure that the person receiving the gift actually likes and will eat the produce in the basket.

Barbara Arnold is green corps coordinator at Franklin Park Conservatory.