While the garden is still pouring out in abundance, yet you've about had it with cooking the harvest, try eating vegetables in raw, in dishes so cool and crisp they can tempt even the most heat-worn appetites. There are many people who eat this way all the time. They're usually called fanatics, but they are onto something. Raw vegetables are much richer in vitamins and enzymes than cooked ones, and so they're better for you.
They'll fill you up, clean and tone your system, and, if you worry about your weight, they'll take a load off your mind. You can eat as many vegetables raw as you like, and it's doubtful they'll ever show up on your scales.
The idea behind raw foods is to eat as close to nature as possible. When the vegetables are coming out of your own garden, that's very close. You get to eat vegetables as soon as they're picked, and you could even think of that as a special health treatment that's not available to the general public.
Every gardener is familiar with raw tomatoes. Except for tomato sauce, it's practically the only way they're eaten. But even the luscious tomato can be spiced up a bit. Try drizzling slices with olive oil and either vinegar or lemon juice, and covering them with finely chopped, fresh herbs.
Basil gives them a pungent, Mediterranean flavor. Tarragon makes them taste cooler. Oregano gives them the sparkle of pizza, and other herbs will change the flavor just enough to give your sliced tomatoes variety.
Cucumbers are another garden crop usually eaten raw - if they're not pickled. Cool and crisp, they're delicious soaked in sour cream or yogurt with plenty of dill. The surprising thing about cukes is that you can cook them, and many people who don't eat them because of indigestion find that a light steaming eliminates the problem.
The list of vegetables that can be eaten raw is a long one. Cabbage, for instance, is so high in Vitamin C when it's raw that it seems a shame to cook it. I like rich slaw, flavored with both sour cream and mayonnaise, with chopped peppers and chives. For my taste, Savoy makes the best slaw - tender and crunchy - but red cabbage makes a more colorful dish.
Green beans, peas, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, kohlrabi and turnips are all good raw - and corn can be sliced right off the cob and into the salad bowl.
Eggplants, on the other hand, aren't fit for eating raw, and I don't much care for the starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squash, unless they're cooked. Artichokes are tough, and most greens are too bitter, but you can try your hand at everything else. Raw beets and carrots are extraordinary sweet.
For an easy and beautiful dish, try slicing all kinds of raw vegetables and heaping them on a platter with a variety of dips. The colors and tastes are unusual, and you get a wide range to play around with.
Try sour cream or yogurt, and season it any way you like. Curry powder, honey and chopped chives will turn either into an exotic dip. Soy sauce will make it saltier. Hot pepper will add a certain zip, and dry mustard will add zip of another kind.
You can make a delicious, high-protein dip by mixing a cup of cottage cheese with 1/4 of a cup of blue cheese, 1/4 of a cup of yogurt, chopped chives and a little lemon juice; or a sweeter dip by adding orange juice to sour cream.
Add dishes of sliced hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds and cheese cubes, and you'll have a healthful, high-protein meal rich in raw food goodness.
There aren't that many recipes for raw foods, but there are a lot more people playing around with them. It's all up to your imagination, so let it go. You're bound to come up with something good.