Use Your Homegrown Food for Summer Picnics

You can move far beyond the traditional picnic fare.

Picnic with vegetarian snacks on meadow

 Westend61 / Getty Images

Summer picnics are a wonderful idea for a sustainable summer. You can enjoy them in your own garden, or in beautiful natural environments close to home. Even if you don't actually get away far, summer picnics can be wonderful–fun for the whole family on sustainable days out. 

Sandwiches and Wraps

Sandwiches are a popular picnic food. But you don't need to head out to the stores to get the ingredients to make them. I make my own bread using wholemeal flour from a local mill. But even if you don't make your own bread, you can still use homegrown ingredients for your sandwich or wrap fillings. 

One thing I like to do is making jams, jellies, chutneys and other preserves. And they can be great in sandwiches. If you have nut trees in your garden, natural nut butters are also a great choice. There are plenty of salad crops you can grow for sandwich fillings. The classic cucumber, or lettuce and tomato is just the beginning.

We also like using homemade coleslaw to fill sandwiches and wraps. I make slaws not just with cabbage, but also with carrots, beets, kohlrabi, apples and more—you can also blend up cooked seasonal vegetables, herbs, etc. to make a range of veggie spreads.

Summer Salads

For grown-up picnics, there is a huge range of salads you could enjoy. You can, again, move far beyond the traditional lettuce, cucumber and tomato. We grow and forage a huge range of plants that we use in summer salads. And it is worth remembering that adding nuts, seeds, berries or fruits to leafy salads can help you ring the changes. 

We love potato salads with plenty of green veg and herbs, or egg salads with pea shoots, mangetout, chickweed, lettuce, spinach and chard, for example–with homemade mayonnaise, honey and whole-grain mustard. We also like adding some seeds (sunflower seeds etc.) for added nutrition, texture and flavour. 

Quiches, Pies and Tarts

One of our top favourites for summer picnics is pea and broccoli quiche. Though many homegrown crops are ideal for inclusion in quiches, pies or tarts. We also enjoy a French onion tart, with caramelized onions. And simple tarts topped with tomatoes, basil, oregano and olive oil.

We often make mini-quiches or tarts in a cupcake tray to take with us on summer picnics. For dessert, there are also plenty of fruit pies and tarts you could make. For example, I recently made some gooseberry tarts, and bilberry pies are a favourite a little later in the season. 

Mini-Pizzas

For kids, mini-pizzas can be another favorite. Making pizzas in miniature form makes them easy to take along packed in a picnic hamper. Topped traditionally with tomato pizza topping, herbs, and cheese, they are very child-friendly. But you can also top it with pesto and vegetables for a healthy adult option. 

Home-Made Breads 

As well as using pizza dough as a base for homegrown ingredients, you can also make a range of homemade bread that incorporates herbs, fruits, or vegetables. We love focaccia, topped with Mediterranean herbs and veg, for example. You could also make a garlic flatbread to serve with summer salads, wholesome nettle bread, or bread with fruit and seeds and nuts baked in. 

Cakes and Other Treats

There are almost endless sweet treats to make with homegrown produce for your summer picnics. Classic carrot cakes are a great choice. We also love apple cake, beet chocolate cake, and more. Cakes or mini-muffins can be easy to transport for picnics, and there are a great many recipes to choose from. We also enjoy flapjacks – oat-based treats crammed with fresh berries, fruit fruits, seeds, nuts, etc. And in the past, I also made some fruit leathers (like the fruit roll-ups that you can buy in the stores). On hot days, for summer picnics in the garden, fruit ice lollies can also be fun. 

Summer Picnic Drinks

Don't forget the drinks. You can of course also make a range of fruit juices, smoothies, cordials, and even alcoholic drinks from the produce you grow in your garden. If you have a well-stocked garden, there should be no need to buy anything in for your summer picnics at all. 

There are more ideas, many more. But perhaps this brief introduction to some ideas will help you to plan the perfect homegrown summer picnic this year. 

Elizabeth Waddington, July 2021
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