The only bad thing about the good food coming out of the garden right now is that it all comes ripe at once.
'Rutgers' tomato

'Hungarian Yellow' sweet peppers
            Tomatoes – the Black Cherries and Yellow Pears that drop like candy from the plants.  Meaty red 'Rutgers.'  'Cherokee Purple,' with fruits the size, shape and color of bruised fists.
            Hungarian peppers as bright as bananas.  Three kinds of basil, buzzing with bees.  ‘Aristocrat’ Zucchini. The first zucchini came on so fast I didn’t realize the flowers had set until I poked around my ‘zucchini tower’ one day between rainstorms and discovered a squash as big as a loaf of sourdough.  
'Aristocrat' zucchini
I picked it for my daughter as she was heading home after a visit and she sent a photo of it ahead to her fiancé, the chef in the family, texting him, “How about dinner for 45???”
            I’d hoped to outwit the squash vine borer this year by planting ‘Aristocrat’ in a new corner of the vegetable plot and by growing the plants vertically up through a wrought iron tuteur, making it easier to spot pests on the leaves and remove them. The tower has made for an eye-catching focal point and I felt like I did catch a lot of bugs that way, but ultimately the plants attracted every insect species known to plague squash, including the spotted orange cucumber beetle and the beetle-like squash bug along with my old nemesis, the borer, which ravages the stems from the inside out and causes the whole plant to wither. 
Zucchini Tower with pole beans
I’m thinking the tower is to insect pests like a 3-story tall billboard is to tourists in Times Square.  ‘I want to wake up in that city that never sleeps!  I’m king of the hill!  Top of the list!  Head of the heap!’
Compost bin volunteers
I’m still harvesting zukes off the healthy stems, and the bean vines that I’ve inter-planted with the zucchini on the tower and on the back arbor ('Painted Lady' scarlet runner, purple pole bean, Calico Broad Bean) seem to grow before one’s eyes like Jack’s magic beanstalk.  My favorite bean, the meaty southern calico I started three years ago from beans bought at Renfrow’s, the old hardware store and seed emporium in Matthews, North Carolina, bears prodigiously in August’s heat and makes for tasty cassoulets come winter.
"I'm all tied up 'til October!"
   I’m also harboring hope for the snarled profusion of squash vines that germinated in the compost bin beside the garden.  On one vine there is a tiny pumpkin growing (courtesy of the jack-o-lanterns I tossed in the bin back in November?) and on a neighboring vine there’s a striped gourd (Thanksgiving decorations discarded in January).  Every morning dawns with dozens of bright orange squash flowers bedecking the scarecrow ensnared by these vines, but it remains to be seen if he can coax any more edibles out of the volunteers.    

Baby gourd
     The ‘Dorman' red raspberry was harvested in June.  I gave paper cups to the guests at my daughter’s bridal shower and we braved the heat long enough to fill them.  In their colorful sundresses the girls looked like exotic birds descending on the berries.  The mockingbird who owns this place was not amused. 
'Dorman' raspberry
            My pair of highbush blueberries have borne well enough but the fruit has taken longer to ripen this summer, probably because of all the rain, and because the mockingbird selects the best berries for his breakfast earlier than I can rise.  I pick off the few ripe ones he’s left me every morning (like raspberries, blueberries are ripe when they come off in your hand without any resistance) and toss these natural anti-oxidants into whatever I’m cooking or eating that day – atop granola, tossed with sliced peaches and yogurt or a slice of melon at lunch – maybe in a green salad with arugula. 
'Noble' muscadine
Now I’m watching the shiny clusters of muscadine grapes growing on the main arbor and plotting how I’m going to beat out Mr. Mocker when they ripen.  I'd hoped Miss Billie would help me by guarding the arbor against his depredations, but so far she's seemed unwilling to take on such a formidable adversary, and naps safely in the strawberry patch while he's about. 

Miss Billie on duty.  Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy' in foreground,
with  pole beans
            The best part about having a summer garden is being able to take a break from meat when the vegetables and fruits are coming ready in a rush.  Last weekend I finally made time from work long enough to cook my Garden Pie, and we’re still eating on it days later.  This recipe is one I’ve cobbled together over the years from three or four quiche and tart recipes saved in my messy file of clippings.  It embraces improvisation, so you can substitute or add any fresh vegetable you enjoy, so long as there’s room for it in the dish.
            Leftovers for 45, anyone?


Pate Brisee Crust:  in a food processor, blend 1 stick of very cold butter cut in cubes with 1 ½ cups bleached flour (White Lily is the best, if you’re in the south) and ½ teaspoon salt.  Process until mixture looks like coarse meal.  Add 3 Tablespoons of ice water one tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition.  When dough forms into a ball place it on a floured board or pastry rolling surface and roll it out to cover a 9” Pyrex pie dish.  Place crust in dish and chill in refrigerator while you make the filling.

1 small (or ½ large) Vidalia onion, chopped
1 small sweet pepper, any variety you like, chopped
1 large zucchini (or 2 small), sliced, and the slices quartered
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine
2-4 (depending on size) flavorful, ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
4 eggs
½ cup cream mixed with ¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
Additional salt and pepper
Dash of paprika, thyme, cayenne

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice tomatoes and place atop a sheet of paper towel on a plate.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and let stand to drain while preparing the other ingredients.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a medium-hot skillet or pan and sauté onions, peppers and zucchini, about 5-8 minutes, until cooked through.  Sprinkle with a dash of paprika, freshly ground pepper, crumbled thyme, and a pinch of cayenne, if desired.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Once cool, mix with shredded cheese and pour mixture out into prepared pie crust.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, milk, basil, parsley, salt and pepper.  Pour egg mixture evenly over vegetables in pie crust, shaking pie plate to distribute evenly.

If the drained tomato slices are large, slice in half – then place evenly on the surface of the filling, pressing into place in a mosaic pattern until the surface is covered.  Sprinkle surface with freshly ground pepper.

Bake atop piece of aluminum foil in center of oven for approximately 1 hour, or until a metal skewer inserted in center of pie is pulled out clean.  Cool on wire rack for at least one hour.