An Abundant Summer

DSC_0971The heat of summer has been relentless this year. We are in the middle of a record-breaking stretch of hot, dry days, and my kitchen is even hotter than outdoors! There have been pots boiling on my stove for days now, blanching, cooking, and canning my way through the beauty of our summer harvest. While our little garden does not produce enough to sustain us, we are thankful for the local farms around us, committed to growing fruit and vegetables organically, and thankful for the markets that have chosen to sell local, seasonal produce so we can feel good about preserving the food that feeds our family throughout the year.

Our little peach tree is one of my favorite parts of summer. The sweet nectar of a ripe peach tastes like a warm breeze on a day with endless blue skies. This morning we picked the peaches off of our tree, sun-kissed but still firm, with the intention of ripening off the tree. This year our tree produced about thirty pounds of fruit. Not bad for a four year old tree. We learned the hard way with this fruit, thinking that there is no better way than to let a peach ripen on the tree. We were mistaken, and we were greeted with mushy, pulpy, stringy fruit, fit only for the blender, or at best the oven. Ripening a peach on the window sill is exactly what this fruit needs.

Our bush beans have really taken off now. We have both green and purple varieties, and we have handfuls daily, which we may soon get tired of. But I have looked forward to binging on this vegetable for many months now, and I am not done yet. If time permits, I would like to try pickling some beans this summer as well.

Zucchini squash is another vegetable that I enjoy in the summer, although it can become daunting to use it all up. So far we have been able to stay on top of the plants, and have continued to harvest tender, baby zucchinis, which are fabulous sautéed! We have only had one run-away zucchini so far, which may have weighed as my youngest!, It has been relegated to the freezer, grated and stored in two-cup portions, perfectly ready for a winter day when I am craving the taste of chocolate zucchini loaf, still warm with a pat of melting butter.

Blackberry season has also begun, and today was the first day we foraged for them. An hour’s picking was all the kiddos could muster, and since I forgot gloves and clippers, I was not that keen to continue myself. We picked around two pounds, which I rinsed and sent straight to the freezer. It will take many more pounds/ days before there are enough berries to make a decent batch of jam.

Our corn is not ready yet, but farms in the valley grow beautiful sweet corn. I have frozen several pounds of corn kernels cut from the cobs, and we have eaten just as much on the cob, topped simply with a nob of butter, and pinch of sea salt. The pop and crunch of eating corn on the cob might  be one of my kids’ favorite summer food experiences. Once it is frozen, we don’t eat the corn separately, but I do enjoy adding it to soups, chili, and my version of a southwest quinoa salad.

Dill pickles are a must for our family. We have successfully grown pickling cucumbers this year, but for lack of space, there were only several to contribute to my intensive canning project, which took place yesterday. I picked up thirty pounds of little cucumbers , and several fistfuls of dill (why didn’t we grow that this year?). Our garden contributed the garlic, and the grape leaves (for crispness and color). We scrubbed and trimmed and stuffed and boiled they day away, and by the time the kiddos were being tucked into bed by gramps and gran (there for dinner and moral support), I was pulling out the last of the jars holding the vibrant, mossy-hued spears.

The recipes will have to wait for another day, as this wanna-be farmer needs some shut-eye, before it all begins again tomorrow.

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