Farmers Market Panzanella Salad

Farmers Market Panzanella

Just before Memorial Day, Paige and I planted three tomato plants, two basil plants, rosemary, thyme and parsley in clay pots on our back porch. The sunny spot seemed perfect for growing, and my daughter relished in helping me set everything up.

When we were done, the waiting began. Morning after morning, the plants seemed to look the same. No change. No growth. We were still excited about them, but we wanted more. We wanted to see our garden grow.

Also as someone who’s had mixed results growing anything, I was worried that our container planting experiment would fail miserably.

Then, we started to see little changes. One tomato plant was clearly growing. It’s leaves were larger. And the basil plant in that pot filled in.

But another tomato plant seemed like it wouldn’t thrive. It was small, and its leaves looked spotted and sickly. Having experienced late season blight on tomato plants at my cousin’s farm in Connecticut, I watched it closely, worried. Meanwhile, the kids were ready to pull that plant out and replace it. But I insisted that we wait and be patient.

“Give it time,” I told them.

So we did. Paige, who’s 7, watered and nurtured all the plants. Even when it seemed nothing was happening, she kept on keeping on. Slowly, it began to grow with the other plants. The spotted leaves were replaced with healthier ones.

Nearly two months later, the basil plants have grown into mounds of the sweet, vibrant herb, and a series of little green sungold tomatoes will begin changing colors any day now. The other tomato plants have grown and have yellow flowers just waiting to develop into tomatoes. And the stalks of rosemary are thickening, while the thyme crawls its way through the pot.

Most importantly though, the plant that Will, who’s 9, and Paige thought was dying is now thriving. With big green leaves and plenty of flowers, the magic combination of watering, sunlight and time worked together to help it grow and strengthen — without any hint of blight.

When you want something to grow and flourish, it needs time, patience and nourishment to thrive. It’s unrealistic to think that you can plant something and have it bear fruit overnight. While we might like the magic of Jack and the Beanstalk in our gardens, in reality taking a breath and giving things space and time to develop organically leads to stronger, better plants.

Farmers Market Panzanella Salad Recipe

While my small container garden is a fraction of the size of the garden I once tended in Connecticut, I love it all the same. And I can’t wait to pluck basil and tomatoes from the containers to whip up this Farmers Market Panzanella Salad.

Panzanella is traditionally made with stale bread, tomatoes and a vinaigrette. But I like to make it a little differently — toasting the torn bits of bread and adding a lot of vegetables to the mix. I like the symphony of textures and flavors when they come together with a light, tangy red wine vinaigrette.

Farmers Market Panzanella Salad

This is great served with your favorite grilled chicken or fish — or just enjoyed on its own.

Farmers Market Panzanella

Farmers Market Panzanella Salad
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 loaf French bread, torn into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups halved cherry and/or grape tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup sliced fresh basil
  • ⅓ cup diced red onion
  • 2 ears corn, steamed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and arrange the bread pieces on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well to coat. Bake for 4-6 minutes, until hot and just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the tomatoes, red bell pepper, carrots, cucumber, basil and red onion. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs, and add kernels to the mixture, tossing well to combine. Discard the cobs. Stir the cooled bread pieces into the mixture.
  3. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and pour over the bread mixture. Toss well to combine. Let sit for five minutes and then stir again. Enjoy.


Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is editor of Bangor Metro magazine and senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News. She is the author of "The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook," (Sept. 2018, Rockridge Press) and the co-author of "Grains as Mains: Modern Recipes Using Ancient Grains" (March 2015, DK). Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, and more. She also writes about food at