Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Cup Runeth Over!


If July is about the horn of plenty filling up, then August is all about the horn spilling over! All across Canada and the Northern Hemisphere, gardeners and farmers alike are being overwhelmed by the abundance of their crops... for the most part. Some crops, in some region, are a little less successful than others, but on the whole, we are all scratching our heads, wondering what to do with all this food... Well, if you look through my archives, or in my list of tags, chances are you will find a post on how to deal with your 'problem'. If you don't, you should leave me a comment, and I'll make sure to write up a post on the subject -if I know what to do about said problem. Otherwise, you can scroll through my blogroll, perhaps a fellow blogger will have a solution for you.

In the meantime, here's what you can look forward to in August:

Wild Blueberries
Early in July, there were reports that the wild blueberries of Lac St-Jean would not be abundant this year due to a late frost in May. That may be true, nevertheless the blueberries from Abitibi seem to doing well, as they are at the same price as they were last year. In any case, wild blueberries are trickling in, and with a little luck, by mid-August, most regions in Quebec will be in full harvest.

Raspberries, Strawberries and other Berries
Raspberries have been around for a while now. You might not be aware, however, that August is when a second flush of raspberries come in. Also, in slightly more northernly reaches, wild raspberries are only just coming into full swing: for those of you who are nostalgic of childhood summers rambling through the brambles, the Laurentians in Quebec are flush with the wild berries. And they are particularly delightful this year! If you are thinking of trying your hand at jamming this year, the berries are particularly tasty this year (it's all that heat and sun), and last I looked, they were even less expensive than last year.

Quebec strawberries are entering their second (? Third?) flush. Strawberries in the North-West Territories and the Yukon are probably only just coming in. In any case, the strawberries are sticking around for a while yet, and the warm weather and sun will only improve their flavour. Other local berries are also plentiful at this time of the season: the gooseberries are gone, but the currants -red, white and black- are ready for eating out of hand or for making jams and jellies; as are blackberries. In the more northernly regions, cloudberries are most likely ripening right about now.

Ground Cherries
If you've never had a ground cherry, you do not know what you are missing! Here's Abi just swooning over them! They look like tiny tomatillos (that of green salsa fame), but they are sweeter, fruitier, and are loads of fun to eat. Kids usually fall in love with them because they are such odd fruits, and are a hoot to peel. Mix them in a fruit salad with berries, or use them in a savoury recipe like in a salsa.

Plums, Peaches, Apricots, and... Nectarines
Quebec's climate is slightly too iffy for most commercial productions of stone fruits, except for plums! We even have a beauty called Mont-Royal, and it should be making the roll call in August. In the meantime, Ontario's stone fruits are just lovely. Juicy and sweet, one can sit with a full basket, and eat them until the juices dribble down our chin, and we are sticky from head to toe! I am sure that the soft fruits from the Okanagan are just as delightful, despite the dry weather looming over British Colombia. Anyway, they sure beat the imports... I tasted a nectarine from I will not say where, and it was dry, dry, dry, and very mealy. Through no fault of the fruit, of course, the poor thing was picked before its prime. I have yet to see an Ontario nectarine, but I'm crossing my fingers that come August, they will be in attendance at the market.

Corn
Oh, I do love a good corn roast! Now that I think about it, I haven't been to one in ages... The first ears of corn have hit the market early, but they only get better as the season gets along. August's corn will be sweeter, with bigger yet ender kernels (September's corn is said to be tops!)
Corn on the barbecue or roasted over a campfire is truly nice, but I must say I favour the old standard boiled corn: it's quick and efficient, and the water keeps the corn from drying out, so each kernel stays moist and delicate. Also, all that cooking water makes a great stock base for a batch of corn chowder - what better way to use up left-over corn?

Field Tomatoes
Oh, I know they've already begun poking out their noses, but August is when the field tomatoes literally roll down the market's aisle! They are so abundant in August that one almost becomes jaded... but now is the time to gorge yourselves on these babies, because they'll be gone before you know it. You will have to wait until the end of the month for the bushels of tomatoes for canning, but do go have your fill of tomatoes now... Basil (and other herbs) are absolutely plentiful right now, and are the perfect seasoning for a tomato salad.
Every other summer vegetable you can think of (peppers, sweet and hot; eggplants...) will be coming into their own right about now. All the (local) ingredients for the perfect ratatouille are at your fingertips: tomatoes; eggplant; zucchinis;peppers; one  chilli pepper; and a handful of herbs. Heaven!

Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli and Cabbage
The crucifers are back in spades, just in time to contribute to your barbecue get-together: because who can imagine firing up the grill without a coleslaw on the side? I saw the first local cauliflowers, and they are massive! Even the one in my CSA basket was gargantuan - and they usually have trouble bringing these crops in... It must be the weather: it has been an exceptional summer so far in South-Eastern Canada, what with the generous sun and heat, and abundant rains. 
So don't be afraid by the large coles; they are big, but not overgrown: they will be sweet and tender, with no excessive fibres.

Artichokes
Mmmm, artichokes... The West Coast has already welcomed its first artichokes, but the winters being harsher in the East, the chokes are a little later over here. While I wouldn't bet on it, I am quite sure that  Quebec artichokes will also be in earlier than last year. And my mouth is just watering at the delectable thought of enjoying an artichoke leaf by leaf. The French have the perfect word for this method of eating an artichoke: effeuiller, or to remove one leaf after another, it is also used as a metaphor for stripping (a burlesque dancer is often referred to as une effeuilleuse...)!

Apples
Apples are often thought of as an autumn crop, but in reality, the apple season begins in late summer... However, as everyone has decided to be early this year, late summer apples are now mid-summer apples. I cannot roll out a list of summer apple names at this very instant, as I am not particularly a fan... I like my apples tart and really hard, with a loud crunch, and apples need cool nights to build up proper firmness. However, nights have been relatively cool these past few days, so I just might give summer apples another go this year. 
Anyway, if you love your apples on the sweet and melt-in-your-mouth-velvety side, then summer apples just might be your thing. They will be fine for eating out of hand, but will really come into their own in pies and other cooked desserts.

Grapes
Yeah, I know, table grapes from all over the world are available year-round, but I'm not talking about your run of the mill table grapes: I'm talking wine grapes! If ever you needed proof that global warming is real, just look at the expansion of wine country around the world. Regions not previously known as hospitable for grapes are sprouting vineyards: everyone knows about the Okanagan Valley and the Niagara Peninsula, but did you know that Quebec has a flourishing wine industry (and some of it is impressively tasty!), as does Nova Scotia? In fact, all ten Canadian provinces have at least one winery.
August marks the beginning of les vendanges just about everywhere in the northern hemisphere, though Canadian vintners like to stretch out their grapes' ripening. However, what with the exceptional summer we've been having, there is a slight chance that harvest will begin a little early.
If you are looking for table grapes though, I remember buying baskets of Ontario grapes as a kid while on family vacation in the Niagara region. I believe that there is a small table grape industry in some Canadian regions, but it is nowhere big enough to leave the confines of its province. If you prefer to forage for your grapes, it is still a little early for wild grapes, though the vines along the train tracks of Montreal are definitely covered with immature bunches...

Green Beans, Yellow Wax, Lima Beans, Scarlet Runners...
All manners of beans engulf the market come August. They should all be eaten cooked, but can be enjoyed either cold, warm or hot. In a salad, as a buttered side dish, fresh beans have all the nutritional benefits and more of dried beans without the unpleasant side-effects.
Lima beans should be shelled, and if the beans are bigger than a penny, they should also be peeled. Later in the month, shelling beans should be making an appearance. There are all kinds of shelling beans, and they are all sublime: their flavour will be similar to their dry counterparts, but the flesh will be softer, fresher, and they require neither long soaking nor cooking times. You really have to try a mixed bean salad made with freshly shelled beans.


I am probably forgetting a whole host of things, but this is all I can think of for now.


Bon app'!



4 comments:

  1. Unfortunately Ontario grape growers, no doubt prodded by polls and marketing consultants, have over the past few years replaced all their stock with a seedless, much less sour variety. All the fun and taste are gone, and I don't buy them anymore. You mentioned hot radishes in an earlier post, but haven't you noticed that radishes are no longer hot? They've bred them to have no flavour. And marigolds no longer smell. And . . .

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  2. You can still get hot radishes if you get them during a drought or a heat wave. Otherwise, I do agree that the new, commercial radishes are less hot.
    If drought-radishes are still not hot enough for you, you can always grow them yourself. Radishes are an easy crop, and adapt well to container gardening if you do not have access to a veg plot. Just stress out your radishes by not watering quite enough or exposing them to blighting sun.

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  3. This truly is the richest time of the year. Thanks for summarizing what's available! I received one purple kohlrabi in my CSA share this week. Any ideas on what I can do with it?

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  4. Oooh! I love kohlrabi (there are actually few vegetables that I do not like...) If the skin is still tender -try poking it with your nail: if it easily goes through, it is fine, if not, peel the skin - you can eat it skin and all, and that's a great thing since a peeled purple kohl is plain green underneath.
    Kohlrabi tastes just like a cross between the tender centre leaves of a cabbage and a broccoli stalk. It can be eaten raw, sliced thinly or shredded, in a slaw-like salad, or as a crisp addition to a mixed salad. You can also cut it into chunks or slices and cook it (with butter of course!)When you start getting monster-sized kohls, they can peeled, boiled and mashed with butter, and perhaps a potato or two... I can't wait til mash season!
    The leaves on the kohlrabi are also edible: if they are tiny, they are tasty raw, otherwise they are best eaten cooked like kale.
    Hope that gives you a few ideas!

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