500 Days of Summer
When I think of all the things that need to get done in the garden, I momentarily wish that summers in Montreal were endless; that I had more time to crouch amongst my vegetables beds to pick out every single weed. But if summers went on forever, I probably would not enjoy the briefly intense gardening sessions I snatch minutes before I dash off to work; in the dying daylight after a lunch shift; or under the porch light while fending off the mosquitoes in the dead of night. No, indeed, if I had all the time in the world to do my garden chores, I am quite sure that they would never get done.
And I wouldn't appreciate the little things: like the first peas from my garden. While I am mentioning them for the first time today, rest assured that the peas above are not actually the first peas from my garden. They're merely the first ones to make it to the kitchen! I've been munching on my peas for about two weeks now, along with lots of rapini, roquette and other greens.
Last week, I received the first delivery from my CSA farm. In the basket, there were green onions; baby spinach; mesclun; Asian greens; and asparagus. You needn't join a CSA to enjoy the bounties of summer, but I do highly recommend it. And it's not too late to join, some farms still have openings, and would love nothing more than to share their harvests with you.
Other goodies that you may find in the CSA baskets or at the market are garlic scapes and the first of the new season garlic. The scapes are more piquant than pungent, so you can get away with serving them on their own, as a featured vegetable. The heads of garlic, on the other hand, are still rather mild, and might not have quite yet formed individual cloves, so you will most likely be using more garlic than normal. But it's all good, since garlic is very good for you. The first green beans are also trickling in at the market; they're still stick thin -just the way I like them- and very tender.
I mustn't forget the strawberries! The cool and wet spring had delayed the harvest a bit, but they are here in all their glory. The sun and hot weather are making up for lost time, and now there is a bit of a glut at the market. It is the perfect time to be stocking up on homemade jam. If you are buying berries for jam, make sure that you choose an even amount of dead-ripe berries (for flavour and colour) and slightly under-ripe fruit (for the pectin boost). The recent deluge that fell over many parts of Canada has resulted in juicy, though not overly sweet berries, which is fine for jamming.
It is the time for wild salmon and Atlantic mackerel. From California all the way up to Alaska, the Pacific salmon are running upstream. This early in the season, you will mostly find Pinks, Chubs, and Keta. These salmon species are paler in colour, and somewhat smaller in size than the later varieties, but they still make for a scrumptious meal. I did notice that Sockeyes were also coming in: they are on the small-ish side, but they have the deep orange flesh that has become the marker of wild salmon. Cohoes do not usually run up until late summer.
I do not know if the Atlantic salmon fisheries will be revived in my lifetime, but if you have a hankering for wild Atlantic salmon, you will have to cross the pond as they are still being caught in Scotland and Ireland (though who knows for how much longer). I vaguely remember eating wild Atlantic salmon in my childhood, but I couldn't tell you if it was delicious or not, however some salmon lovers claim that the Atlantic salmon is the king of all salmon. Here's to hoping that the fish makes a comeback soon, so that the argument can be settled once and for all.
One Atlantic fish that is still considered sustainable is the lowly mackerel. This fish is still grossly under-appreciated, yet it is very inexpensive, highly nutritious, and makes for the best summer eating. Its high fat content (read high in omega fatty acids) makes it ideal for barbecues, grilling over an open fire, and eating raw when very fresh. It is usually sold whole; for those who are not faint of heart, the innards, head and bones are a great addition to the compost heap: it might raise a stink, but it breaks down fairly rapidly, and your plants will love you.