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Sustainable Life: Summer’s Kitchen Garden

Mia Swainson

Summer in my garden tastes of juicy, cherry tomatoes that are warm from the sun.

I love to share them with friends as an appetiser, threaded on a toothpick with fresh baby bocconcini cheese, a few leaves of basil, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Yum!

Being in my kitchen garden is one of my all-time favourite things to do. I love the way summer brings an explosion of life in my garden. The fruits of spring’s labour seem to all come at once in the warmth of December and January. I love sharing garden produce with friends and family as we relax together on these gorgeous, long summer evenings.

Kitchen garden cooking doesn’t need to be complicated. With the freshest produce, it’s all about bringing out flavour created by the sun and soil in your garden. Here are my favourite, simple, summer dishes.

Heirloom tomato salad

Tomatoes soak up the flavour of your land and the season. I like to grow as many varieties of tomato as my garden will spare in space. As well as special varieties, my garden always has beefsteaks and Russian black tomatoes for this salad. I think these tomatoes taste best straight from the garden, without refrigeration. I think refrigeration takes the edge off their rich flavour.

To make the salad, take two of each type of large tomato straight from the garden. Slice the tomatoes to show off their gorgeous inside patterns. Sprinkle the slices with a few pinches of each, salt and sugar.

Display the slices on a nice, white plate and then drizzle with olive oil and grind some black pepper on top. Serve with crusty bread and fancy cheese. So pretty and delicious!

Zucchini and bean salad

Unlike supermarket produce, the zucchinis and beans that I grow at home come in different colours. It’s the colour contrast that gives this salad zing.

In my garden, I have one of each, a yellow and a green zucchini plant producing throughout the summer. This salad is best with a harvest of the smaller, tender zucchinis about the length of your hand.

For the beans, I also plant both yellow and green stringless beans. I sometimes pop the beans in with our corn, for a ready-made climbing frame. If you’re doing this, plant bean seeds when the corn is about a foot high.

To make the zucchini and bean salad, I take equal quantities of the zucchini and beans. Top and tail the beans. Chop the zucchini into long slices – similar length to the beans, with the ends looking like a piece of pie.

Pop the zucchini and beans into boiling water for 3-5mins to cook them. Now, while they’re still hot, mix through a dressing of chopped garlic, mint leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Raspberry fool

Raspberries grow like weeds in Canberra gardens. If you’re planting them for the first time, make sure it’s somewhere that’s easy to contain and not right next to your vegetable patch! I’ve trained our Raspberries on a fence and this makes for easy, summer picking.

My favourite raspberry fool is simple. Whip 250ml of cream until it holds it’s shaped in the bowl. Stir through 250ml of yoghurt, ½ cup icing sugar and the juice of a lemon. Take about 500g of raspberries from your garden.

Keep a handful aside for topping, pop the rest into your mixing bowl on top of the other ingredients and fold in the raspberries until everything is well combined. Serve in a wine glass, topped with whole, fresh raspberries and a sprinkle of caster sugar. You could also take the raspberry fool on a picnic, by putting the fool into small glass jars.

Summer is the season of abundance in my kitchen garden. It’s when I feel like the fruits of gardening are best enjoyed. There’s plenty to pick, eat and share with friends. The flavours are strong. I feel surrounded by green. The weather invites us to be outside, especially as the sun goes down and warm days give way to balmy nights.


Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy ( More about the Author

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