Diversify Your Plate with Unique Summer Produce

Diversify your plate and enjoy unique summer fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Get a grip on roasting garlic and learn about “holy” basil. With unique textures, shapes, and tastes, these garden goodies are a great way to entice picky eaters. Here are some offerings you might not know, but should.

Black Krim TomatoesHail the Heirloom Tomato

What is summer without tomatoes? Heirloom tomatoes are now in season at Lydia’s Fields at Wheatland near Purcellville, VA.  It’s the seeds that give them the title of heirloom. Those seeds are passed down season to season so farmers can select for certain desirable traits.

Two heirloom favorites grown at Lydia’s are Black Krim and Brandywine. The Black Krim came originally from Crimea. It has an intense sweet flavor but also a slightly salty taste. And they are huge! The fruit weighs 8-12 ounces. The Brandywine is not usually available in supermarkets. Rather than typically “jagged,” the Brandywine’s leaves are smooth and oval. Growing up to 9 feet, the plant bears large, pink beefsteak-shaped fruit.

Oxheart Tomato

Tomatoes with a Twist

Color, shape, texture, and taste all influence how we feel about food. The same is true for children. Show them that not all tomatoes are red. Pick up some of the Beorange variety. The name is the color. These tomatoes have a nice round shape, good flavor, and decent shelf life. Or try Lydia’s Australian Oxhearts. With very few seeds, this tomato is shaped like, you guessed it, a heart. Read the story of how these tomatoes immigrated to America.

And if your kids (or you) have a sweet tooth, try Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes. These golden-yellow jewels are soft and tangy. It’s like eating tomato flavored candy!

Green Kohlrabi

Unique Summer Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs

Tired of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower? Then try the kohlrabi currently at Lydia’s Fields. Also called a German turnip, Faith Durand of The Kitchn says kohlrabi looks like an “alien spaceship”.

Enjoy it raw as a slaw, puree it in soup, and make kohlrabi fritters. Or keep it simple and just roast it. Eggplant and kohlrabi are a tasty combination. And steamed kohlrabi works well with stir fry vegetables.

More Unique Garden Offerings

Another way to get more greens into your diet is chard. While it might look like a beet, it’s the leaves you’re after. In fact, you can’t eat the root. But the leaves are tender and taste similar to spinach. And you can also eat the stems by sauteing or steaming them.

Fennel is a multi-purpose perennial herb related to the carrot family. Originally from the Mediterranean, the bulb can be sauteed, roasted or grilled. Firm and crunchy, it tastes a little like licorice and anise. The stalk can take the place of celery in soups and stews or used as a “bed” for roasted chicken. Even those feathery fronds are edible. Try them as a garnish or chop them up in lieu of dill or parsley.

Get a Grip on Roasting Garlic

Related to onions, leeks, and chives, garlic is a herb grown around the world. It helps lower cholesterol as well as regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Enjoy roasted garlic as a spread on bread or crackers and mash it into salad dressing, hummus, and baba ganoush. Or use roasted in place of raw garlic in soups, casseroles, and sauces. Pick up some garlic heads and try this recipe from The Kitchen, provided by Lydia’s Fields.

Roasted Garlic 
Ingredients: 1 or more heads of garlic; olive oil. Equipment: knife; aluminum foil


  • Heat the oven to 400°F: Set a rack in the middle position.
  • Peel (most of) the paper off the garlic: Use your fingers to peel away all the loose, papery, outer layers around the head of garlic. Leave the head itself intact with all the cloves connected.
  • Trim about 1/4 inch off the top of the head of garlic to expose the tops of the garlic cloves.
  • Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the exposed surface of the garlic, letting the oil sink down into the cloves.
  • Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
  • After 40 minutes, begin checking the garlic. It’s done when a center clove is completely soft when pierced with a paring knife. Even once soft, you can continue roasting until deeply golden for a more caramelized flavor. Check every 10 minutes. Exact roasting time will depend on the size of your garlic, the variety, and its age.

Let the garlic cool slightly, and then serve. Press on the bottom of a clove to push it out of its paper. Roasted garlic can also be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

Tulsi Basil plantsUp the Taste with Herbs

Grab some eggplant, yellow squash, and zucchini and up their taste with fresh herbs. Dill, oregano, and sweet basil are top choices, but there’s also Tulsi basil. Native to Southeast Asia, it’s also known as the “holy basil” and considered a tonic for the body, mind, and spirit. Try this Tulsi Tea recipe, courtesy of Lydia’s Fields.

Tulsi Tea
Ingredients: 1 cup water; 1-2 tablespoons dried tulsi (or a handful of fresh tulsi leaves and flowers)

Directions: Bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the tulsi in a heat-safe container. Allow the tea to steep, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Strain tulsi from tea and enjoy daily.

Finish with Figs

In addition to all these garden offerings, Lydia’s Fields also has figs. The ficus trees reside at the farm’s “House of Figs”. They have a sweet taste, a soft and chewy texture, and slightly crunchy, edible seeds. Since they are so delicate and perishable, store figs in a single layer on a plate or shallow bowl in the refrigerator or a very cool place and eat within a few days.

Lydia’s Fields at Wheatland

Lydia’s Fields has a reputation for high quality, sustainably grown vegetables. And while their 202O CSA program was a sellout, you can still find their produce at Loudoun Station Farmers Market in Ashburn. You can also call (540) 822-0353 to place an order for farm pickup.

pawpaws cut openMore Blue Ridge Farmers

Another great unique fruit, coming to the Blue Ridge in just a couple of weeks, is the pawpaw. They taste a lot like bananas combined with mango, pineapple, melon, or berries. You can add them to cakes and puddings or make ice cream and smoothies. Get on the Mackintosh Fruit Farm mailing list so you know when they’re ready. Or follow the farm on Facebook for updates. These beauties go quickly!

Learn more about other Blue Ridge farmers and build a healthy lifestyle around locally sourced food. And enjoy the fruits of their labor, deliciously prepared by area top chefs, with the Taste’s Root to Table Culinary Series.