Thursday, July 25, 2019

Summer Harvest

by Karen Rose Smith

I begin planting tomato seeds when there is still snow on the ground.  Nurturing the seedlings and watching them slowly grow their third leaves, transplanting them into bigger pots, staking them and slowly moving them outside when the warmer spring weather arrives is a lengthy process, but I know when they start bearing vine-ripened tomatoes in July that my hard work will be worth it all.  I like to start my garden plants from seed so I can grow them organically and control the pesticides and soil additives that are used on many plants bought at my local garden center.  I usually raise cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini from seed.  This year, I did purchase two pepper plants and a market pack of Brussels sprouts at the nursery.

This week the garden began to produce and the basket on my counter is filled with zucchini, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes.  Eventually, I will freeze tomatoes for my winter soups, but now I'm just excited that we have fresh-from-the-garden vegetables for our daily meals.  So far I've served sauteed zucchini with bacon, pasta cucumber salad, fresh zucchini bread, and stewed tomatoes. 

I like to create new recipes for my Daisy's Tea Garden series using the fresh items from the garden.  I know Daisy would offer items featuring garden-fresh items on her summer menu.  Fresh cucumbers can be used to make the cucumber sandwiches with a pimento spread in my latest release, MURDER WITH CUCUMBER SANDWICHES.  The recipe for the spread can be found in the back of the book.

The garden sometimes needs a splash of color, so I always plant a row of zinnia seeds around Memorial Day and they also burst into full bloom around the same time that the garden starts to produce.  My St. Francis statue stands guard over the garden, welcoming creatures who need protection. 

The past two summers, groundhogs and deer have helped themselves to my giant sunflower plants, so this year I planted the sunflower seeds in the center of the raised tomato bed where they are protected by the tomato plants and cages.  They are now peeping over the tops of the vegetable plants and will soon be in full bloom.

Autumn is usually referred to as harvest time, but my summer harvest of fresh garden vegetables is my favorite.

Daisy’s Tea Garden in Pennsylvania’s Amish country is known for its elegant  finger foods—but now owner Daisy Swanson has to finger a killer . . .

Restaurant critic Derek Schumaker, notorious for his bitter reviews, is about to visit Daisy’s Tea Garden, and Daisy and Aunt Iris are simmering with anxiety. A bad word from the culinary curmudgeon could really hurt their business, but Daisy tries to stay confident. After all, how can he resist her cucumber sandwiches with pimento spread—not to mention the cheesy cauliflower soup and strawberry walnut salad?

Schumaker takes a to-go order when the afternoon tea service is done, which Daisy hopes is a good sign. But when he perishes from a seizure, it looks like his food was dosed with something deadly. Considering a threat that recently appeared on his blog—and whispers of scandal in his past—Daisy has quite an assortment of suspects to sift through . . .

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