/ "The best thing about having a garden is being able to share the bounty of your harvest with friends. " That was the sweet and unexpected...

Share story


“The best thing about having a garden is being able to share the bounty of your harvest with friends.”

That was the sweet and unexpected response of a friend recently when I brought homegrown green beans to a backyard pool party. The beans were dressed with homemade pesto vinaigrette made with homegrown basil. Green beans are not a traditional pool snack. Nor do they go particularly well with gin and tonic or cold beer. I know that, so I was bracing for a different sort of commentary.

But that’s the great thing about my friends. They indulge my pusher tendencies. For reasons I can’t explain, I have a deep-seated need to push food on loved ones. I can’t take “no” for an answer. I resort to outrageously grandmotherish urging sometimes. You already ate? I’ll fix you a small plate. You don’t have to finish it. Just taste.

Over the years, I’ve plied friends and even guests at other people’s homes with all manner of dishes. Baba ghanoush (a garlicky roasted eggplant spread), caponata (sautéed peppers, tomatoes, onions and eggplant in a vinegary sauce with capers), pickled okra and patty pan squash in basil butter are things I bring to parties rather than chips and dip.

My shared garden offerings have two things in common: quantity and preparation. There’s always enough to feed a crowd, because you never know who’s going to drop by — especially at the place with the pool. And, my food gifts are dishes, not ingredients.

It’s an important distinction. Picking crops is labor. Cooking is an act of love.

You don’t have to have a garden to share the bounty of the harvest. The next time you’re at the farmers market or the grocery store, instead of getting four ears of corn, get a dozen. Then cook them, shuck them and turn them into a salad with fresh herbs and a little oil and vinegar.

If you prefer baking to cooking, buy a big sack of whatever fruit is in season and make a cobbler to share. Or a buckle or betty or a crisp or a crumble. It doesn’t matter, just make enough to go around.

If you can’t cook or bake at all, a huge bowl of Rainier cherries nestled in another bowl of crushed ice counts as a “dish,” because it is impossible to improve on the taste of sweet cherries in their natural state.

The other important thing — and I admit I appear to be swimming against the current on this one — is to present your food in a worthy container. Don’t put it on a paper plate or a plastic container. Put it in your best bowl. Your friends won’t steal it.

Yes, a ceramic bowl or a glass casserole could get broken. But what’s more important: your friends or your stuff?

In my case, I look at the occasional breakage as an opportunity to rescue another vintage treasure from the antique mall.