Whether it’s peaches and nectarines, mushrooms, zucchini or big slabs of cantaloupe and watermelon, grilling enhances the unique taste of all fruits and vegetables. It caramelizes their natural sugars and adds a mild smoky touch – not to mention decorating them with those beautiful grill marks.
The most important tip for grilling fabulous fruits and vegetables is to start with the freshest produce. Your local farmers market is the best place to find the highest quality fresh fruits and vegetables, harvested at the peak of flavor and delivered directly from the farm to you. You can also buy varieties of summer produce that you won’t find anywhere else.
Here are some other important tips for cooking and enjoying summer’s perfect produce on the grill:
When you expose the surface of vegetables to intense heat, the outside will cook much faster than the inside. To get both browning (or charring) and tenderness, cook peppers, onions and corn together. They don’t need to be turned frequently and you can keep the grill lid down longer. Grill zucchini and eggplant together since they need to be checked more frequently – every minute or so.
Use clean grill grates for less chance of sticking, or oil the grates.
Lightly oil vegetables before cooking, but don’t sweeten fruit beforehand as it tends to burn.
Cut pieces large enough so they won’t fall between the grill grates. Thick slices are fine for many items, like potatoes, melons, summer squash and eggplant. Use skewers for smaller produce like strawberries, figs and cherry tomatoes.
Another option is to cut up fruits and vegetables, toss with olive oil or butter and wrap in packets of aluminum foil. Cook about 15 minutes, depending on density of the produce.
What can you grill?
Just about any fruit can go on the grill as long as it is fairly firm. Peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, avocados and melons are the best fruits that hold their shape over the flames. Fruit is fragile, so cut in large chunks, halves or wedges.
Choose vegetables with a lower water content because you want them to hold together as they cook. Use firmer Roma tomatoes, onions, corn on the cob, zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, artichokes and potatoes. You can even grill Romaine lettuce halves.
There are really no rules when it comes to cook times for produce. Just keep an eye on things so you can tell when they’re done. You want grill marks but don’t want them to get too soft. Averages cook times are 7-10 minutes for vegetables, a little less time for fruit, using medium-high heat for a gas grill. For a charcoal grill, start on the hottest part of the grill for grill marks and then move to a cooler area of the grill to finish cooking.
At the Concord Farmers Market, you’ll find fantastic stone fruit like peaches and nectarines for grilling at J&J Ramos Farms of Hughson and Diaz Farms from Fowler. Or stop by J&M Farms of Gilroy or Esquivel Farms from Watsonville for summer squash, mushrooms and big hunks of Romaine lettuce to toss on the grill.
All of these farmers stand by the quality of their produce, which means your grilled fruits and vegetables will turn out the best.
To start grilling awesome fruits and vegetables this summer, go to pcfma.org/eat for recipes.
The Concord Farmers Market is in Todos Santos Plaza Tuesdays from 9 am to 2 pm.