Saturday, July 2, 2011

Glory Days

This is it, folks. We're at the height of Summer: the bountiful days of Summer. A few crops will probably be delayed because Spring was a little uncooperative, but here is a list -far from comprehensive- of what to look forward to in July.

Beans, Peas, and Other Pods
I've already mentioned beans and peas last month, but July is when the green and yellow wax beans really come into their own. Closely followed by fava and Lima beans. Runner beans might join the fray at the end of the month, but they like hot weather, so they might hold off until August. Shelling peas will gradually give way to sugar snaps and snow (mange-tout) peas. 
(Trivial, yet interesting, tidbit: I recently learned that Saskatchewan is rapidly becoming a world leader in chickpea and lentil production. I am looking forward to the day when fresh Saskatchewan chickpeas will be available at the market.)

Beetroot and Other Root Vegetables
Baby beets usually start showing up at the farmers' market in June, but the wet and chilly spring had been detrimental to this crop. Hopefully, the recent warmth will have given the little roots a boost. Other root vegetables making a show of strength are new potatoes; baby (and not-so baby) carrots; turnips; new onions, along with their younger sibling, the green onion; the new season garlic in July are usually large-bulbed, and have proper cloves.

Berries, Etc...
Local and red-ripe strawberries will be around until the early fall, but July hails the arrival of other berries such as raspberries; red and black currants; gooseberries; blackberries and mulberries. High-bush blueberries also trickle in by the end of the month.

Cabbage and Co.
Young and tender cabbages are perfect for coleslaw, and are reliably inexpensive at this time of the year. If you prefer other members of the cabbage family, you're in luck, as broccoli, cauliflower, rappini, and Asian cabbages are also abundant in July.

Field Tomatoes
Local (unheated) greenhouse tomatoes have been available since mid-June, but the first field tomatoes do not usually make a show until the end of July. There something about those slightly misshapen fruit, speckled with a little dirt that is oh-so special: they smell of the earth, the sun, and the rain. Their tomato-eyness is beyond surreal... I don't know how to explain it. It's the scent that lingers around after you've brushed up against a tomato plant: that is what a field tomato smells and tastes like, on top of all the natural elements it has absorbed. I mean, I know that all tomatoes -even those hockey pucks- grow on similar vines, but only a tomato that has grown exposed to the elements seems to smell the way it does.

Figs
Come July, I can't help myself anymore: I have to buy a case of Greek figs. They are dead-ripe and luscious, and perfect on their own. Not local in any sense of the word, but if you live in fig territory, then you will be seeing the local crop shortly. For those of you with a cooperative tree, you probably have some figs plumping up already, and with a little luck, they might be ripe before the end of the month.

Honey
Local honeys are usually available year-round, however, July is when there is a glut, and you are presented with a plethora of variety. You need not settle for the everyday flavours of wild flower, clover and goldenrod: there are dandelion; buckwheat (a dark, strong-flavoured honey suited for savoury concoctions); raspberry; apple; almond; orange; lavender honey... The choice is vast.

Stone fruits
Cherries. Plums. Need I say more? Apricots, peaches and nectarine show up a later in the season.

Eggs
We rarely give thought as to the origins of our eggs, but we really should. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on some free-range eggs, take a close look at the yolk when you break those eggs. It will be a deeper yellow than any other egg you've had in a while. In fact, it will be close to orange, especially at this time of the year. That intense yolk is chock full of nutrients not found in run of the mill eggs. (The same goes for milk, but it is rather hard to find milk exclusively from pastured cows nowadays...) Cherish those eggs: come fall, when the plucky ladies move into their indoor quarters, the yolks will revert to their paler counterparts.

Summer Squashes
Zucchini; yellow summer squash; patty pan squash; cucumbers; and squash blossoms. It all seems quite novel at first, but by the end of the month, you will likely want to run away at the sight of them. Well... maybe not the squash blossoms.



Bon app'!



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