Move over meat! Make room on the grill for savory summer vegetables and sweet juicy fruit.

Fruits and vegetables are ideal for delicious summer grilling. And by cooking quickly on a hot grill, you'll sear in all the natural flavors as well as most of the nutritional value of that fresh locally grown produce.

Bautista Ranch has bell peppers arriving soon. Summer squash can be found at Nunez Farm and other veggie producers. Stone fruit is offered at J&J Ramos Farm, Diaz Farm, and Aoyama Farm. And fat juicy tomatoes and sweet onions are available at Swank Farms.

Marinades, herbs, and basting sauces bring out and complement the natural flavors of fresh produce. And with the coals already hot, why not grill fresh fruit for dessert? Marinated or not, the natural flavors of the produce are enhanced by grilling -- peaches and nectarines become sweeter, zucchini and tomatoes become more savory.

You don't need much seasoning, either. Salt and pepper and a little olive oil are great for vegetables, or a bit of brown sugar for fruit -- or grill with no seasoning at all.

The natural flavors of California fruits and vegetables will shine through.

Grilling fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Vegetables

    Asparagus: precook for 3-4 minutes, grill for 3-5 minutes.

    Bell peppers: cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until they begin to shrivel.

    Corn on the cob: remove husks, wrap in foil. Grill for 20-30 minutes.

    Eggplant: (1-inch thick slices) grill for 8 minutes.

    Mushrooms, whole: grill 7-10 minutes.

    New potatoes: cut in half, precook for 10 minutes, grill for 10-12 minutes.

    Onions: slice in half, grill for 3-5 minutes directly on the grill.

    Zucchini or summer squash: slice thick, grill for 5-6 minutes

  • Fruit

    Apricots: cut in half, remove pit. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until soft and grill marks appear.

    Melons: remove rind and cut into eighths. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, turning frequently. Baste lightly with butter to prevent sticking.

    Nectarines and peaches: cut in half, remove pit. Cook 10 minutes, turning once.

    Plums: halve and pit. Cook 7 to 8 minutes

    Strawberries: cook quickly over medium heat, 2 to 3 minutes.

    Mixed Vegetable Packets on the Grill

    1 large onion, sliced

    1 cup sliced button mushrooms

    1 russet potato, cut in chunks

    1 yellow squash, sliced

    Place all sliced vegetables in a bowl, toss with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Place in the center of a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold foil around the vegetables to form a sealed packet, either by twisting to make a "topknot" or folding around it. Place on the grill over indirect heat for 20 minutes.

    Here's to the all-American summer pastime -- grilling and barbecuing. Grab that picnic basket and head for the nearest park or campground, or walk out your back door to the patio and fire up the grill.

    Farmers markets are open rain or shine.

  • In Martinez, the Sunday market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round, and the Friday seasonal market is from 4 to 8 p.m. through Sept. 12, both at Main and Estudillo streets.

  • The Pleasant Hill seasonal farmers market is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 15, at Gregory Lane and Trelany Road.

    Visit www.pcfma.com or call 800-949-FARM (800-949-3276).

    The Time is Ripe is a monthly column written by Debra Morris, promotions coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association. Contact her at debramorris@pcfma.com.

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