Grilling Your Garden harvest

Now that your garden is finally producing (why does it take so long, right?) I'm sure you're eating fresh fruits and vegetables all-the-time! While it is totally awesome, it doesn't take long till I'm thinking "steamed zucchini again?" Thankfully there are lots of ways to prepare fresh veggies and cooking them on the grill is one of my favorite methods.

Grilled vegetable platter

Not only are grilled veggies delicious, but it doesn't require cooking in the no heating up the kitchen cooking dinner! That's always a plus on hot days. Plus grilled fruits are actually quite amazing for dessert.

Grilling is the perfect way to cook fruits and vegetables because there is minimal loss of nutrients and the flavors don't get watered down or masked by cooking methods.

How to grill garden fresh produce

You want to start by choosing fruits and vegetables that are ripe and ready to eat. Under-ripe or over-ripe produce won't cook well on the grill. Some veggies that are too ripe will fall apart in the heat making a huge mess!

Wash your veggies just before using, not before storing. For the freshest possible produce, it is best to refrigerate fruits and vegetables unwashed. I just wipe off any garden dirt before refrigerating and wash and pat dry before grilling. 

If you're using your produce within a day or two of harvest, then just store it on the kitchen counter out of direct sunlight. No refrigeration needed for short term storage.

For the best results, bring fruits and vegetables to room temperature before grilling. 

Larger pieces are better for cooking

Larger cuts of vegetables tend to work best on the grill. Of course, if you cut fruits and vegetables into small bite-sized pieces it will help to reduce cooking time. However, you also run the risk of dropping pieces through the slats of the grill and when it's time to turn everything, small pieces are a lot more work!  

If you want to cook small pieces you will have to either thread them onto skewers or use a grill pan or liner. A liner is very effective, but you won't get as much 'grilled' flavor as you will if you cook directly on the grate. Make sure to use a bit of oil in your grill pan to prevent sticking! I find it easier to cook larger pieces, then cut them into smaller pieces before serving if you like. 

Small or soft vegetables like cherry tomatoes or hot peppers are best cooked whole. 

Fresh grilled zucchini, home grown

Prevent sticking 

Allow the grill rack to get hot before adding your fruits and vegetables. This will help seal in the natural juices without drying it out and the sudden searing will create a nice little crust of your food (the grill lines) that won't stick to the grill as much.

Add a bit of oil to the grill or the produce. Brush fruits and vegetables (except corn) lightly with oil, melted butter or your favorite marinade or oil-based dressing for added flavor and to help prevent sticking.

If I don't want to use marinade, sometimes I will coat a paper towel with oil and wipe the grate down before I get started. Obviously not while there are flames!

There are lots of spray oils available in the grocery stores now. I have olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil in spray bottles and they are great for grilling. Just make sure to spray your food before putting it on the grill. Spraying food while on the grill will cause over spray to get on the coals/heat element and can give off an oily smokey smell. 

Now is a good time to sprinkle your  veggies with some of the chopped, fresh herbs that you've been growing! The oil will help them stick to the vegetables. Or use some compound butter, like this chive blossom butter for both flavor and to keep the veggies from sticking!

Use medium heat

To avoid burning, grill fruits and vegetables above a lightly dispersed bed of medium coals. Medium describes coals that glow through a layer of gray ash. To test for medium heat, you should be able to hold your hand over the grill for only four to five seconds. Or just set your gas grill on medium.

Check your vegetables often, as most will take only 5-10 minutes to cook.

Because they taste best served closest to room temperature, put fruits and veggies on the grill slightly before grilling meat. This way they will be done first and can be removed from the grill while the meats finish cooking. This will allow time for the fruits and vegetables to cool slightly so you can serve them alongside hot meats.

Steaming vegetables on the grill

If grilled vegetables aren't your thing but you still love the idea of cooking your whole meal on the grill, you can steam them! For a steamed effect, wrap vegetables in foil before grilling. Add a touch of butter, herbs or your favorite dressing or marinade and you've got a great side dish. 

Husked and de-silked corn on the cob can be prepared this way. If you have pieces of veggies that fall apart or start to fall through the grates, you can cook move on top of a piece of foil to finish cooking.

Grilling corn on the cob in husk

For perfect corn on the cob, immerse the ears of corn (still in husk) in cold water for one to two hours prior to grilling. Then grill over direct heat until husks are charred, turning occasionally. It should take about 15-20 minutes. The moisture in the corn turns to steam when heated and cooks the corn without burning. 

Remove from grill and allow to cool a few minutes before husking. Wear heat safe rubber gloves when peeling off the hot husks and silks. 

Grilled fruit skewers

Fruit on the grill

When fruit is grilled the natural sugars caramelize and enhance the fruits flavors. My favorite fruits to grill are watermelon, peaches and pineapple...though admittedly I don't grow that last one here in Pennsylvania! Larger fruits like watermelon and pineapple can be sliced. Stone fruits can be halved or quartered. 

Smaller or denser fruits can be cut into pieces and put on skewers. This is great because it keeps them from falling through the grill while making it super easy to turn them for even cooking.

Some people like slightly warmed fruit with just a little bit of grill marking and other like their fruit cooked all the way through. It could take 3-10 minutes to grill your fruit depending on your desired outcome. Check the fruit often and don't worry if it sticks a little, it will still taste great!

You can season the fruit with cinnamon or ginger before grilling for a unique taste. If you like a sweeter taste, add brown sugar to melted butter and brush over fruits as they near the end of the cook time. To prevent sugar from burning, don't brush on till they're almost done!

My personal favorite is to drizzle grilled fruit with fresh honey after it's been removed from the grill. Have you ever grilled fresh fruit?

Want to grow your own produce? Vegetables that are ready in under 60 days.


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