Story and Photos by Dagny Kream
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It’s the summer of sustainable outdoor dining & vegetarian picnics, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by creating a garden-to-table picnic spread. We've gotten to the point as a culture where we've disconnected from the value of growing our food. It's not just about the delicious meals, cost savings, or self-sufficiency. Growing food is about fostering a sense of connection, building community, and recognizing the inherent worth of nature. The meals we create using the food we grow become a shared experience, a story we collectively craft. The flavors, the smells, the textures—everything comes together to remind us of our roots and place in this incredible world. These moments keep us grounded and invested in the future of this beautiful planet we call home.
Eating meals in the garden is the highlight of summer every single year. When Barebones reached out to create a garden-to-table meal, I knew it needed to be a celebration of the beautiful gifts the garden gives us.
These heirloom pieces are responsibly crafted and do justice to the beautiful harvests pulled from the garden beds. And when it's time to pack up and transform my little outdoor restaurant back into a garden, the Ridgetop Table & Folding Chairs fold up and tuck away like they were never there.
I’ve been eating an exclusively plant-based diet for almost twenty years, so I’m no stranger to transforming raw garden ingredients into a delicious picnic spread. Eating plant-based has many benefits. Plant-based diets are typically low in saturated fats and cholesterol and high in fiber, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve overall cardiovascular health. Plant-based diets also have a significantly lower environmental footprint compared to diets that include high consumption of animal products. They require fewer resources, such as land, water, and energy, and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Many people choose a plant-based diet to align with their ethical beliefs about animal welfare and reducing the harm and suffering of animals raised for food.
Choosing the Right Ingredients for Your Vegetarian Picnic
The perfect summer picnic isn’t just about the food (although that plays a big part, too). Choosing a picturesque location like a garden, a park, a beach, or a lakeside spot will set the tone for the entire experience. And comfortable seating will make it easier for guests to relax and enjoy their meals. Bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to guard against harmful UV rays and natural insect repellent to keep mosquitoes and other pesky insects at bay. Pack up some outdoor games or activities to keep everyone entertained, such as frisbee or a deck of cards, and a trash bag to keep the picnic area tidy and make clean-up easier after the meal. A portable speaker for some background music and enjoyable company in the form of family and friends will make all the difference in creating a memorable experience. And remember to bring reusable utensils, plates, and cups like Enamelware to minimize waste.
For my vegetarian picnic, I use seasonal and locally sourced ingredients to keep things healthy and sustainable. But no shame if your picnic game is simpler than mine - nothing wrong with a PB&J and some cheese and crackers! But if you do want to celebrate your garden harvest, here’s some inspiration to help you build your plant-based picnic menu.
Mediterranean & Vegetarian Picnic Ideas
Grilled Vegetable Platter
Combine assorted vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and herbs, then grill to perfection.
A refreshing salad made with quinoa, fresh parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Hummus and Pita
Serve with a variety of pita bread or veggie sticks for dipping.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Filled with rice, herbs, and lemon juice, these are a delightful
Fresh Fruit Salad
A medley of seasonal fruits for a sweet and refreshing finish.
BBQ-Style Vegan Picnic Ideas
Skewer chunks of marinated tofu, bell peppers, red onions, and mushrooms, then grill them for a delicious BBQ flavor.
Shredded cabbage, carrots, and vegan mayo-based dressing with a touch of apple cider vinegar and agave nectar for sweetness.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Brushed with vegan butter and sprinkled with paprika and lime juice for a tasty twist.
Vegan Potato Salad
Creamy potato salad made with vegan mayo, Dijon mustard, dill, and chopped pickles.
A juicy and hydrating summer treat to end the meal.
Simple and Fresh Picnic Ideas
Caprese Salad Skewers
Cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and vegan mozzarella balls drizzled with balsamic glaze.
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Marinated in balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, then grilled and served as a flavorful main dish.
Cucumber Avocado Salad
Sliced cucumbers, avocado, red onion, and cilantro tossed in lime juice and olive oil.
Fresh Berries with Coconut Whipped Cream
A delightful dessert featuring a mix of berries topped with homemade coconut whipped cream.
For my picnic, I wanted to limit myself to the fresh ingredients I could pick. I found myself with an abundance of carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs, and berries to work with. Wanting to keep it simple and something that you could pack and go without any need to reheat or make a big mess was my biggest concern. Picnics should be easy to make, store, and enjoy!
For the main course, I decided to make a simple caprese pasta salad combining cherry tomatoes with fresh basil, mozzarella, and balsamic glaze. Pasta salad is such a classic summer food and a crowd favorite that you won’t have to worry about pleasing everyone.
For the snacky bits, I like to focus on finger foods that travel well and don’t require a stack of napkins. I sliced up fresh bell pepper and carrot spears and served them with hummus and almonds for a bit of crunch.
I always need to have a special beverage with my meals, so I whipped up a fiery jalapeno pineapple mocktail (or try this charred Jalapeno alcoholic version!) to serve in the enamel mugs and keep us refreshed in the summer heat.
And we can’t forget dessert - chia pudding is easy to prepare the night before, so I blended fresh blackberries with oat milk and chia seeds and let it sit overnight in the fridge before serving with granola and dark chocolate chips.
How To Set Up A Picnic
Now that you have your meal plan, the final step for the perfect summer picnic is to set the scene. I chose to create an inviting atmosphere for my outdoor dining experience by featuring reusable and durable enamel tableware and incorporating natural decor elements found in the garden, including some fresh flowers.
Barebones is a B-Corp company, which means they meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability, and they are dedicated to building relationships and connecting to community through food, nature, and the pull of the fire. The thoughtfully designed products in their lineup are created with a passion for the outdoors and timeless functionality. I have found the quality of their products to be unmatched - beauty perfectly meeting function.
The Ridgetop Folding Table and Chairs are sturdy and comfortable, with a timeless design inspired by antique school and church folding chairs that will fit into any outdoor space. Unfolding them feels like stepping back into a time when things were built to last, creating a solid foundation for your celebration. The set is beautiful and comfortable with durable beechwood, stainless steel, and copper accents that elevate it above the basic folding chairs and tables of the past. The set is stained and waterproofed for longevity and folds flat for easy storage and transportation.
Barebones also has a full line of reusable tableware that is designed to hold up to the elements, making them perfect for more rugged outdoor dining experiences and camping. The entire collection includes bowls, cups, espresso cups, tumblers, deep plates, and salad plates - and the matte Flatware set with forks, knives, and spoons completes the lineup.
With my arthritis, the lightweight enamel dishware makes it easy for me to carry a whole stack without any aches and pains, and I don’t have to worry about my guests breaking anything as the day unfolds.
And since time seems to stop at every good picnic, as afternoon stretches into the early evening, I grabbed my vintage-inspired Forest Lantern to light our way and keep things cozy. This classic camp design has been modernized with the addition of a dimmer knob and USB charging with up to 80 hours of run time, but still offers the warm and inviting glow of a traditional lantern, perfect for hunting down last-minute garden snacks in the dusk light and finding your way back home once the night comes to a close.
Dagny Kream is a plant-based backyard gardener in rural New England. She grows her own vegetable garden in an effort to connect more deeply with the land and community while building healthy soil and giving back to the environment using permaculture methods. Her focus is on teaching others how to crush their garden fears and grow food in their own backyards easily all year round through educational video content on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.