We don’t buy much at grocery stores. In fact, I always feel a bit embarrassed by our cart, or actually, by our basket, since we rarely buy enough to need to roll the cart through the store. It looks like a terrible diet - often some combination of baking supply, flour, sugar, chocolate, pasta, coffee, butter, raisins, rice and grain products, olive oil, corn chips, cheese. Maybe, more rarely, some kind of packaged treat or cracker. And condiments, like vinegars, anchovies, capers, soy sauce, etc.
But most of the rest of what we eat, we grow, or get from someone else who grows it locally. If it’s not in season, we don’t eat it in its fresh form. So for a big chunk of time now, we’ve dreamed of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, okra…the things that we just don’t eat fresh for the parts of the year they aren’t in production or lasting in storage. All spring, new fresh foods trickled in slowly here. We’ve had lots of greens since March, but adding to that was a challenge - asparagus, green onions, and herbs were mainstays through May and June, but didn’t feel like much variety after a couple weeks. We’d had no potatoes since last year’s ran out about the beginning of March. Radishes and peas and new celery stems in June brought in more variation, and the wild black raspberries were our first fresh fruit. But even though it is so much anticipated, the suddenness of the classic summer produce is always a surprise. When it starts to come in, it just really is suddenly….in.
The garlic gets harvested in July, and suddenly after months without fresh garlic, we have garlic in everything. Zucchini, other summer squashes, cucumbers, green beans, the first cherry tomatoes followed by the first magnificent slicing tomatoes, and then, just last night, the first okra. The first few days of a newly ripening vegetable are treasured and savored as they only can be when, by eating seasonally, your palate knows how special they are. We had the first tiny potatoes for the 4th of July, then tried to leave them alone, only harvesting enough to have a taste a couple times a week. I thought nothing could be as delicious as a plate of herbed new potatoes and sugar snap peas. But then after watching eagerly for the first green beans, nothing compared to the first lightly steamed tiny green beans with butter and a fine grating of parmesan. And the first handfuls of cherry tomatoes never made it out of the garden, of course, savored right on the spot. First eggplant arrived last week, and the rain came just in time to plump up a great harvest of wild blackberries this week.
Produce that was only two weeks ago longed for, for months, is suddenly in such full force that it is our daily staple. Last month’s fried eggs over a bed of greens, radicchio, or side of peas, has given way to a huge frittata full of new potatoes, summer squash, corn, shallots and onions, green peppers, basil, and topped with sliced rounds of tomato.
We’ve been eating this salad daily for about a week now:
Dragonwood variation on Caprese salad, with Asian Cucumber and Cherry tomatoes:
Dice up a “Suhyo Long” cucumber. Halve some cherry tomatoes. Dice desired amount of mozzarella into half-inch squares. Finely slice a small onion or a shallot. Finely slice or tear basil leaves, according to your preference (I don’t like large chunks of rough basil leaf in a mouthful, but rather prefer it delicately through the whole dish, so I finely slice it. I’ve been adequately informed that this is improper, and basil must always be torn, thanks.) Toss all vegetables together. Combine olive oil and a little red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and shake dressing in a jar until emulsified. Pour over the salad, toss again.
This is what summer tastes like. And we are celebrating it at every meal. Soon, tomatoes will become commonplace, and then they will even perhaps become burdensome, something to be laboriously canned and dried for the winter months. The green beans are already commonplace, eliciting a “well, we have to eat the green beans twice a day to get rid of them” reaction now, compared to the eagerness a couple weeks ago. Soon, they will go into pickles and krauts as we truly tire of them. Such is the life of a seasonal eater.