Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Come On Summer


I didn't think it was possible. But it seems really true: summer has arrived in England! The weather is warm, and verges on positively hot when the sun peaks out from behind the clouds. Summers in England are milder, less extreme than in other parts of the world: heatwaves here do not reach the sweltering heights of Southern California, or even the muggy extremes of Eastern Canada. But they are a welcome intrusion. 

         Photo courtesy of Laura O'Reilly              

Never have I seen a more sun-worshipping people than the British. In fact, every single one of my expat friends marvel at the odd behaviour Britons indulge in when the sun makes an appearance: every inch of sunny real estate is quickly snapped up, whether it is the green grass in the park, or even the pavement and sidewalks near a pub. Everyone will forgo the comfy seat of a bench in favour of a sunny cinder block. It makes for a funny picture when walking by a crowded pub. The punters are concentrated to the sunny side of the block, and the shade is completely deserted!


News of extreme weather has trickled over this side of the pond, and my heart goes out to everyone recovering from the floods in Alberta, and those still fighting the brush fires in Arizona. Despite destructive weather increasingly becoming a reality at this time of this year, July is definitely the month when Summer comes into her own. Crops abound, the farmers' markets are overflowing.

Stone Fruits
From cherries to peaches, apricots to plums, stone fruits are one of the many pleasures of summer. There is something primal about a soft, ripe peach that just makes you want to sit outside in your barest outfit, munching on a bowlful of them while the juices run down your chin! While peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines are best enjoyed at room temperature (take them out of the refrigerator about an hour or two before eating), cherries are quite scrumptious when served over ice. Or in a clafoutis.


Berries
Strawberries are still going strong, and will hang around until at least September, but they are no longer the only players in the berry patch. Raspberries have a strong presence in July, and mulberries are not far behind. If the warm weather holds, blueberries should be abundant near the end of the month.

Melons and Other Squashes
The British climate is not really conducive to the culture of melons, but they can be grown in greenhouses. Melons, and especially watermelons, were central to my childhood summers, as my father always made sure there was one chilling in the fridge. They, along with peaches, were a backyard staple, and it seemed like the most normal thing to sit at the picnic table in my bathing suit, with sticky chin and forearms, and to spit the pips out at passing squirrels!
Cucumbers and zucchini (courgettes) are also abundant come July, and any of you with a plant or two in the garden or with a CSA membership will be feeling the pinch shortly. A good way to use up excess cucumbers is with a jug of flavoured water, and zucchini can be grated and frozen for a batch of cake later in the year.


Beans
Green, yellow wax, fava/broad and beans aplenty at this time of the year, while runner beans are in season later in the month.

Corn
I love sweet corn. Corn on the cob IS summer for me. Depending on the weather, the local harvest (in North America) can happen as early as the end of July, but August is a surer bet. But one can always wish... Here in the UK, corn on the cob is available year round, and it is nothing like the corn I dream of.

On a completely different subject, you may have noticed that July is often synonymous with an unwelcome invasion in your kitchen: fruit flies. Those pesky, little brown flies like to buzz about in the heat of summer, and always seem to rest on those lush fruit bowls we all like to leave on the kitchen counter. However, it isn't actually the fruit itself that they are attracted to, in fact, what brings the fruit flies out is the smell of fermentation. So, even though we all like to have a well-stocked fruit bowl at room temperature, the best way to keep those annoying flies at bay is to keep all fruit in the fridge and only to take out what you intend to eat within the hour or. In really extreme cases, you may even need to store open bottles of vinegar and wine in the refrigerator. 



Bon app'! 


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