Best Summer Vegetables for Roasting
Like comedians, vegetables can do with a good roasting. It makes them sweeter and more nutritious, and it’s a quick and easy way to serve up something special. One of the challenges of a veggie patch is persuading the rest of the family to eat your harvest with your enthusiasm. Kids are more likely to be won over by roasted vegetables like crunchy roasted carrots or cauliflower, while discerning palettes can be satisfied with olives, spices, herbs, a drizzled balsamic reduction or a tahini sauce added to the roast veggies.
Five best summer vegetables for roasting
Sweet bell peppers are best sown in seed trays and transplanted when plants are big enough to handle. Pinch the growing tips when sweet peppers are 15cm high, as bushy plants produce more fruit. Water daily in the heat of summer but make sure the soil drains well – mulching will keep the soil cooler.
Fertilise with a liquid or granular fertiliser for flowers and fruit (high potassium) when plants start to flower. Fertilise again after two months or with each flush of flowers. Allow fruit to turn yellow or red for the sweetest flavour. Eggplants do best in fertile soil that drains well. A family of four only needs 2 – 3 plants, which makes sowing from seed more practical.
Transplant from seed trays when plants have their first true leaves. Pinch off the growing tips when plants are 20 – 25cm high to encourage bushy growth, which improves production. Water regularly and don’t let the soil dry out completely.
Aphids are a sign of drought stress. Feed with 3:1:5 or 5:1:5 fertiliser when the fruit starts to set, and repeat once a month. Bushes may need support if the fruit is heavy. Pick fruit when it is glossy.
Summer squashes (zucchinis and patty pans) can be sown in-situ.
Dig in a few handfuls of dolomite lime before planting – this will provide calcium and prevent rot. Space plants about 1m apart and sow 2 – 3 seeds together and later thin out the weaker plants. Water around the base of the plant, as wet leaves are susceptible to mildew. Mulch around the plant to keep the roots cool and the fruit off the ground. Plants tend to produce male flowers first and then fruit-bearing female flowers. Pick fruit when it is small to medium sized, as the taste is better than larger fruit.
Pick the male flowers for salads or braise with sweet peppers. Beetroot can still be sown in October but as it gets hotter sowing should taper off. Sow in situ, in friable, clump-free and well-raked soil that drains well. If you want a good root crop it is necessary to thin out the seedlings to about 5cm apart when they are about 5cm high with a final spacing of 10 – 15cm apart. Water regularly throughout the growing season.
Good summer companions for beetroot are bush beans and lettuce. For roasting, pick beets when they are 5 – 7cm in diameter.
Cherry or small Roma tomatoes are best for roasting. These are generally vining tomatoes, which bear prolifically but will need support. A variety that grows well in a pot is ‘Little Napoli’, a small Roma tomato with more contained growth. Plant tomatoes in fertile, well-drained soil. The golden rule is to water regularly, otherwise plants can develop blossom-end rot or become susceptible to white fly and red spider. Fertilise with a potassium-rich fertiliser when the fruit starts to form. For the best flavour let the fruit ripen on the bush.
Tips for roasting vegetables
- Cut veggies into similar sizes so that they roast evenly. When roasting a variety of vegetables, cut softer veggies (squashes, eggplants) into bigger chunks, and denser veggies (beetroot, onions, butternut) into smaller chunks. Alternately, add the softer vegetables later.
- Toss in oil but don’t overdo it as oil is high in calories and fat. Try different flavoured oils for variety.
- Arrange veggies in a single layer so they cook evenly.
- Most roasting recipes recommend an oven heat of 200°C. Too high and the oil may smoke, which destroys its nutrient content. Too low and the veggies stew and don’t get crisp.
- Mix roasted veggies with pasta (add Parmesan cheese, herbs and olives).
- Couscous pairs well with roasted veggies. Add toasted pine nuts or almonds.
- Stir feta cheese into the veggies and allow the cheese to almost melt.
- Chop in fresh chillies and fresh herbs, and drizzle with sauces or a mix of spices for a flavour of Morocco, Asia or India.
- Thin and soft vegetables (patty pans, zucchinis, peppers, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes): 10 – 20 minutes.
- Greens (kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard): 6 – 10 minutes, depending on how crispy you want them.
- Hearty crucifers (broccoli, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower): 15 – 25 minutes.
- Onions: 30 – 45 minutes.
- Mushrooms: 20 – 40 minutes, depending on size.
- Winter squash (butternut, pumpkins): 30 – 60 minutes, depending greatly on how small they’re diced.
- Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot): 35 – 60 minutes, depending on size.