Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hodge podge, tomatoes, corn, berries and mushrooms - summer in full swing!

Well apologies for the absence but I'm sure you all have been quite happily enjoying the bounty of the summer harvest, which is now full on. There's really more than I can write about here but I'm sure you've noticed that farmers' markets and market stores are now filling up with all the makings of hodge podge (new potatoes, beans, peas and carrots in butter/cream and milk). The green and yellow beans are so good I can't stop eating them raw. There are also lots of summer greens including swiss chard (excellent with a little butter and vinegar) and still more beets and beet greens (I'm on the hunt for kale though, I love kale, it's very good for you, and the commercial varieties are high on the Dirty Dozen list of most heavily pesticided foods). You lucky dogs who are members of CSAs are probably seeing even more variety than we're seeing in the farm stands ( I would kill for some mizuna and lamb's quarters).

My favourite moment so far: the "magic" moment - which lasts all of two days - when strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are all available at once. This magic moment sadly passed about five days ago (sorry not to have been on line to tell you) but hopefully most of you caught it too. I'm always sad when the strawberry seasons ends however and this year I was quite remiss in freezing sufficient numbers of strawberries (only four quarts put away this year - hardly enough). I hoping the rest of you did manage, but there is hope for those who, like me, just kind of missed the opportunity. Before you run out and start buying California strawberries (remember, they're laden with pesticides) take note that in the Annapolis Valley at least they're growing strawberries until late into October under some complicated plastic arrangement. Okay, they do get a little dear, but still, think about how much you pay for those tasteless California berries come December! So, if you are short on strawberries this fall just call your friends in NS and have them help you out. However, despite my moaning about the strawberries, we can all be happy that raspberries are appearing everywhere (and yes, I'm freezing those as quickly as possible, just sticking them on cookie trays like I do for strawberries) and blueberries are coming in early and strong. Blackberries can only be around the corner... I've also seen local gooseberries at Baleman's and sour cherries at Cochrane's (as well as in the Moncton area). I eat the sour cherries as they are, although I guess many use them for cooking. But I think they're a great alternative to grapes at this time of year.

Another important development - the chanterelles are here! Yes those gorgeous, kind of apricotty mushrooms that mysteriously appear and disappear at the blink of an eye so if you're not paying attention you might never even know they existed (I just happened to spy one lonely box the other year and asked where they came from, to which the reply was "we'd have to kill you if we told you"). I think there's a secret communications network that just "knows" whent the chanterelles have come in and they quickly swoop in as soon as the few precious boxes hit the market stands. My wonderful market stand in Shediac actually called me to let me know they had arrived so I could rush over there before they disappeared. They're lovely just sauteed in butter with a little garlic and cream - sublime really. But again the window of opportunity is very small so keep your eyes peeled!

Things are moving so fast now that I'm thinking it's time to pull out the canner. I've already seen local field tomatoes at Kredl's as well as NB green peppers (and red ones from Ontario but I don't know how much better they are than the Mexican variety in terms of pesticides - general rule of thumb, if you can't get it from the Maritimes, get it from Quebec, which has much more stringent rules on pesticide use than anywhere else in Canada). And of course the pickling cukes are all over the place as well as fresh dill. (Of course you can just cut the cukes up, pour on some vinegar or sour cream, chop some dill on them and you've got a great cucumber salad.)
Oh and how could I forget! Hunter's corn! Beautiful peaches and cream corn - I've found at both Cochrane's and Kredl's.

Otherwise I've really been enjoying traipising around to various markets and farm stands while I make my summer journeys between Shediac and Saint John. I've made a number of discoveries that I can share with you later - like where to find organic flax and canola oils made in NS (hint: the Sussex health food store Winterwood Natural Foods - more on them later) and all the groovy flavours of chips being put out by a local NB chip company Covered Bridge. But really, more on that later....

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