Taking care of my garden hasn’t been an easy task lately.

The countless days of extreme heat and humidity, along with the lack of rain, have really taken a toll on my plants. I’ve spent night after night watering. It takes about 90 minutes to soak each parched plant. I can almost hear my pumpkins, peppers and broccoli sighing with relief. Lately, I’ve enlisted the help of my dad because I’ve succumbed to watering burnout.

After talking to other people, my gardening woes are not uncommon. Everyone has had a rough time this year. And there are many, like me and my chickens, which are looking forward to fall and cooler temperatures.

Despite the cruel temperatures and lack of precipitation, my garden has produced a lot of cucumbers, zucchini, green peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. I have had a steady diet of vegetables every night at suppertime for the past month. At this point, I’m surprised my skin doesn’t have a nice green sheen to it.

Since eating plain vegetables can get a bit boring, I’ve tried to spice up my meals a bit — zucchini dishes with a Julia Child twist. I can get really fancy if I want to. I even break out my Julia Child voice, which tends to throw off my dog who is watching me. She looks at me like I’ve taken too many swigs of cooking sherry.

When I’m feeling like a gourmet chef, I take out my skillet and pour in about a tablespoon or two of canola oil. I then take out my cutting board and slice up one zucchini. I then place the slices in my pan and sprinkle some seasoning salt and pepper over them. Now, the real fun begins when I throw in some fresh basil leaves from my garden and some sliced tomatoes for added color. You have never lived until you have smelled fresh basil. It definitely opens up your sinuses. If that wasn’t enough, I pour a little marinara spaghetti sauce on top of this lovely summer squash.

After the zucchini has browned nicely on both sides, I sprinkle some shredded mozzarella cheese on top. This dish not only tastes delicious, but it makes the whole house smell great.

I love experimenting with recipes; however, there are some recipes I wouldn’t change at all. For instance, I found a recipe for zucchini casserole in an old historical society cookbook that is absolutely divine. If you have some extra summer squash and are wondering what to do with them, I highly recommend this recipe.

Zucchini casserole

6 cups peeled and diced zucchini

¼ cup onion

1 cup cream of chicken soup

8 ounce carton of sour cream

1 package Stove Top dressing

½ cup oleo

Boil squash for five minutes and drain; stir in onion, soup and sour cream. Prepare Stove Top dressing with oleo. Put half the dressing in a buttered casserole dish, add zucchini and top with the rest of the dressing. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes.

I’ve also taken up eating a cucumber a day. I’m not sure if it will keep the doctor away, but I like it anyway. I like to eat it plain or with salad dressing, diced tomatoes and croutons. I might be a little biased, but my vegetables taste really, really good.

Even though the heat and humidity have been hard on my plants, especially my pumpkins, it has been good for one thing and one thing only – my watermelons. Watermelons thrive in steamy weather conditions. So, it’s really no surprise that my five plants have gone absolutely berserk. I have never seen so many blossoms. Instead of hauling out hundreds of pumpkins, I will be hauling out tons of melons. At this rate, I’ll be eating watermelons for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Watermelons have always had a special place in my heart. When I was a kid, I grew watermelons at my grandparents’ farm. I will never forget the day I saw my first melons setting on the vine. I was thrilled. I ran up my grandparents’ long lane and into the house proclaiming my happy news.

Even though this summer has been wrought with challenges, I still love having a garden.

My produce tastes just a little bit better this year knowing I had to work just that much harder to get it.

Angie Bicker has been employed with the Clinton Herald since 2001.

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