The unofficial kick-off to summer is almost here! This year the start of summer will be marked not only by the calendar, but by the weather as well. Minnesota has been testing our patience and forcing us to prove our hardiness, yet again, but it looks like smooth sailing (or boating on the lake) now!

Minnesotans enjoy summer weather and soak up the sun in every way we can, and we do everything we can outdoors, including making meals. Sure we grill in winter, too, but it’s a lot more enjoyable (and less lonely) in the summer! And doesn’t grilled food just taste better in the summer? Or maybe it just tastes better, period. Produce tastes better in summer, too, so why not combine the two for a double dose of yum?

The only thing that makes fresh produce even better is when it comes from your own garden and containers. This weekend will be perfect for many things, including planting your veggie and fruit gardens. Here’s some inspiration and ideas for what to grow now so you can enjoy (and grill) it later.

Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes (Sun Gold is a house favorite) skewered or in a grill pan, with olive oil, salt, and pepper are amazing all on their own. They will pop when grilled, so don’t be surprised when you hear your grill sizzle and sputter! Pair them with spaghetti squash and pesto for a tasty meal.

Sliced tomatoes can also be grilled. It doesn’t take long so keep an eye on them. The heat brings out a bit of sweetness and adds a new dimension to burgers and salads. For a quicker harvest, grab a patio tomato container – they already have fruit!

Zucchini and summer squash: One plant is all many people need. Easy to care for (just look at it sideways and it produces an overabundance of squash) and delicious in so many summer dishes, this is a must for the grill. Skewer chunks on kababs, toss in a grill basket, or cut the long way (in slabs) for a fresh take on lasagna (use the zucchini in place of noodles). Add thyme for an excellent dose of flavor.

Garden to grill: StrawberriesStrawberries and rhubarb: Grill separately for best results, but combine later for best flavor! Sprinkle rhubarb stalks with sugar and let sit 2 hours or overnight. Grill, turning occasionally, for 10-20 minutes, or a little longer to soften. Cut into chunks with a sharp knife. For strawberries, toss in sugar and skewer or place in a grill basket. Grill for 10 minutes or less, tossing occasionally, over medium heat. Combine the rhubarb and strawberries and serve over ice cream, or enjoy them all on their own!

Eggplant: Skewer it, cut it into slabs, toss it in a grill basket – especially with summer squash – and you’re in for a tasty treat. Eggplant is spongy, so go light on the oil. Add some salt and fresh herbs to ramp up the flavor!

Corn: If you’re growing corn, good for you! That’s ambitious – it takes up quite a bit of space, but it’s tasty and you’ve got part of your outdoor fall décor already growing! To prep for the grill, peel back the husk but leave it attached, and remove the tassels/silk. Rub the corn with butter, then sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and salt, and add ground cayenne. Replace husk and grill for 15-20 minutes.

Butternut squash: Cut, core and slice into slabs. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and cinnamon. Grill for 10 minutes, low flame, on each side. Enjoy!

Peppers: Sweet peppers lend themselves well to kabobs. Large varieties such as Wisconsin Lakes are excellent stuffed and grilled (cooked pork sausage, onion, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and herbs make a great mix). Other pepper ideas:

  • Jalepeno peppers are fun for a grilled salsa – just add grilled corn, fresh tomatoes, grilled watermelon, freshly squeezed lime juice and salt! Or stuff them with cream cheese, grill for a few minutes, and serve with raspberry jam.
  • Anaheim peppers are THE perfect choice for burgers. Cut these peppers in half and flatten each half so it sits nicely on the grates. Brush with olive oil and grind just a bit of fresh pink Himalayan salt on each side. Grill for a couple minutes, flip and repeat.
  • Top grilled burgers with the delicious that is a grilled Ancho. Add freshly sliced tomato for more depth and contrast of flavors.

There are many more options for grilled goodness from your own garden! Tonkadale has the inside scoop on great veggie varieties and what to feed your growing food so plants yield the best results.

Try grilling anything you grow and see what new recipes you come up with. With all the scrumptious possibilities, a grill garden is a must for a best-ever Minnesota summer! Plant, grill, eat, repeat!