What happens outside stays outside… when you’re grilling your own fresh-grown veggies, that is. Garden-grown vegetables picked at the peak of ripeness are the best tasting and most nutritious ones you can eat. And when you grill them over an open flame, you’ll retain more of the nutrition and crisp texture than boiling them in a pot inside. Grilling also gives a smoky flavor that adds a new dimension to late-season veggie-garden stars such as peppers, tomatoes and squash. Just about any vegetable is fair game for the grill, but some of the best are the bigger, firmer and lower-moisture crops that can be sliced like slabs of steak.
- Zucchini and other types of squash are some of the best examples. These are easy to turn and stay intact as they heat to char-broiled perfection.
- Eggplant is another great choice for the grill. Peeled slices pick up the smoky flavor well and resemble slices of Portobello mushroom, especially when slathered with olive oil and your seasonings of choice. (Mushrooms themselves grill very well although they’re technically not vegetables.)
- Almost all root crops can be sliced and grilled, from ordinary potatoes and onions to the sweet, earthy flavors of end-of-season crops such as rutabaga and parsnips.
Peppers—whether they’re fully ripe red sweet bell peppers or hot ones—are grillable but a little trickier since they’re slightly more moist. Be sure to clean the grill well after grilling hot peppers so the heat doesn’t end up unexpectedly on what you grill next time. Cut peppers in larger pieces and watch them carefully since they can quickly go from nearly raw to charred before you know it. That’s somewhat true of all grilled vegetables, though. They don’t take as long as meats to cook, and thin slices in particular can be ready in minutes. Also realize that not all sections of a typical grill are equally hot. That means even the same vegetable might cook quicker in one spot than another.
- Smaller and “skinny” vegetables such as beans, asparagus, baby carrots and shallots can be grilled, too, but the secret there is a grill basket. Or a screen. Those accessories keep small pieces from falling between the grill cracks. For high-moisture crops such as tomatoes, a grill basket also helps, as does halving tomatoes as opposed to cutting them in smaller slices or quarters. Another option is poking cherry tomatoes on skewers and grilling them like a kebab – either by themselves or alternated with pepper and onion chunks.
- Best of all on the grill is sweet corn. If you’re fortunate enough to have the space to grow your own corn, try at least a few ears on the grill. Some cooks grill corn right in the husks, but if you like that smoky flavor, shuck the ears first, drop them on the grill and let the blaze kiss those bare kernels.
It’s enough to make you want to dig up more lawn next year!