Annabel Langbein's Summer Garden

An expression somewhere between horror and pitying condescension came over my teenage daughter’s face the other day. All I had said was that one of my favourite ways to spend my summer break was in my garden!

Annabel’s Zucchini & Basil Bruschetta

This is the perfect snack to enjoy out on the deck with a nice glass of chilled pinot gris as the sun goes down, and the topping is also wonderful as a pasta sauce, thinned with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

  • Prep time: 5 mins

  • Cook time: 5 mins
  • Makes: 16-24
  • Serves: 5-6 as a snack


  • 3 (400g) zucchini
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 50g feta, finely crumbled
  • 10-12 basil leaves, finely torn

To serve:

  • About 16 grilled
 bruschetta bases or crostini


  1. Grate zucchini onto a clean tea towel, then pull up the sides and twist and squeeze tightly to remove as much liquid as possible.
  2. Heat oil in a large frypan over medium heat.
  3. Add zucchini, garlic and lemon zest and stir-fry for about 5 minutes until zucchini has softened without browning.
  4. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Mix in feta and basil.
  7. Spoon on to bruschetta bases or crostini and serve.

For more great recipes from Annabel Langbein, see

And then I remembered when I was a teenager myself, and MY parents would declare they didn’t want to leave home over the summer. “There’s so much happening in the garden we don’t want to miss it,” they would say.

Boring old fogies, I thought, no doubt crinkling up my face with the same disdainful look as my dearest daughter did the other day. And then, shock horror, the realisation that – howcouldithavehappened? – I am becoming my mother!

But I have to say I couldn’t be happier than I am pottering around in my Wanaka garden this summer. Being connected with the garden is something I know will always be nourishing. Seeing a simple seed nurtured into fruition provides visceral sense of the rhythms of nature and living in the moment. There’s something totally thrilling about this time of year, watching nature power up into the full flush of summer growth. We can only marvel.

Over the next three months the rewards of our springtime planting will be many. Once the garden starts to pump, we’ll be hard pressed to manage all our harvests.

Down here in the south we have had a very cold start to the year. As in, it’s been freezing. The peppers, chillies and eggplants are looking a bit shaky and the tomatoes and corn are slow to ripen, but the potatoes, broad beans, green beans, zucchinis, red onions, cucumbers, spring onions, summer herbs and salad leaves are bursting forth in profusion.

It’s a race to keep up with it all. And keeping up is what it’s all about – forget to pick the zucchinis and not only will they turn into triffid-like watery, big-seeded marrows, but more importantly they stop flowering and producing. Ditto beans, cucumbers and anything else that flowers and then forms edible fruiting bodies. Crops like this will continuously fruit throughout the summer season as long as you keep picking and watering them (corn, on the other hand, will form a seed head and a set of cobs, but doesn’t go on making new cobs). If you leave the crop to fully ripen without picking it, the plant thinks its job is done for the season, all its energy goes into the seeding process, and no more flowers (and therefore crops) are produced. But keep picking and it will keep flowering and producing.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with a glut of zucchini, try my recipe for Zucchini and Basil Bruschetta (below).

I check my tomato plants most days for laterals, and pick these off so the plant can focus on making fruit, not more leafy growth. Now my first crop of broad beans is finished I’ve cut the plants back almost to the ground. New shoots will come through from the base and give me an autumn crop.

In the same way, spent flowers can be trimmed back for another flush in autumn. I’ve been busy cutting the sweet william back to where I can see the new growth coming in, the geranium flower heads back to the base, and the canterbury bells under the flower heads.

It’s all about keeping summer and all its wonderful harvests going for as long as possible. To ensure you keep your garden producing, make sure you keep harvesting, watering and feeding. It’s such a simple mantra for satisfying and healthy summer living.

Happy summer!

Annabel x


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Annabel Langbein's Summer Garden Comments

  • going to try this looks yum


  • Loved reading your column Annabel.thank u for it.sadly my beautiful old fashioned lavishly perfumed sweetpeas are coming to an end.the seeds were given to me by a friends wondering if u would some seeds as they are a wonderful treat to have in the garden.

    Janine Mcewan

  • I am succeeding with herbs this year more than anything else in the garden. I have discovered that the best salad is made using a small amount of young lettuce and rocket but with large amounts of fresh herbs, especially the wonderful sharp Vietnamese mint.....

    Diana Thompson

  • Hi Annabel my sister & I wait patiently for your books to be published so we can buy them. They are just great for casual reading and drueling over and of course to make your lovely recipes

    Maria Price

  • Hi Diana, that's great to hear! Thank you for sharing your salad ideas :) Jenna (Tui Team)


  • Thank you for this feedback Maria - we here at Tui also love Annabel's books and trying out her delicious and easy recipes! Jenna (Tui Team)


  • N5KGfG At 76,my husband 82 I am always keen to get nourishing tasty Snack meals recipes for us both.I grow zucchinis fabulously well. Thank you Annabel!!