Here at Cooking Light, each June’s Summer Cookbook is a story we look forward to all year long. What's better than a juice-runs-down-your-chin summer tomato, right? It also takes about a year to produce. And, because we want to work with peak-season produce, much of that work takes place a year ahead of time.

Why am I explaining all this? Because I want to give you a sneak peek at the 2013 Summer Cookbook we’re working on right now. In all the years we’ve produced Summer Cookbook stories, we’ve never actually used our own fruits and vegetables from our own garden. Next year (well, um…this year, technically), that changes. We’re working with a local farmer to grow a mix of hybrids and heirlooms—everything from arugula to watermelons.

The seeds arrived back in late January. Some of them—lettuces, beets, radishes, and carrots—went straight into the ground. Others—tomatoes, peppers, eggplants—got tucked into seed trays and are sprouting safely indoors, awaiting the time when any risk of frost is past.
Of course, with the weather we’re having, it’s hard to even imagine a frost. Spring has already sprung here in Birmingham, Alabama, where Cooking Light is headquartered. Every surface is blanketed in a coat of yellow pollen. Today's it's 83 degrees. And, as you can see from these pictures, our early crops are coming along quite nicely. We’re expecting a harvest of lettuces and radishes in just a few weeks. Can’t wait to show them to you!

Lettuces snuggled into raised beds.


Flashy Trout Romaine lettuce: Check out those speckled leaves.


A tiny Pink Beauty radish peeks out of the soil.