I’ve never been one to do the tourist thing. As much as I love to travel, to get out, to meet new people, to try new foods; I much prefer to do all of the above as if I were a local. I find it even more difficult to swallow when the tourist thing surrounds an activity so warmly familiar it seems routine. My children on the other hand find joyous fun in even the simplest Saturday afternoon outings. It’s with that in mind that I found myself this past Saturday frequenting an overly-crowded and even more overly-priced — albeit local — orchard and cider mill. And yes, I did have fun.
The first column I wrote for Try Handmade, almost a year ago now, was about berries — the love of them, to be exact. And so, it seems fitting that they’re making news in this month’s column once again. Just last week I received an email from one of our favorite u-pick farms, the strawberries here are finally ripe; the blueberries will follow suit soon. We’re a good few weeks behind those in the warmer, southern climates but when it comes to the scrumptiousness that is fresh berries we’ll take them when we can get them. And this year, when we can get them is just in time to restock our jams and jellies. Many of those we’ll make ourselves, from the fresh berries we source locally, but others we’ll buy and the Strawberry Balsamic variety from Sun Chowder Jams on Foodzie is looking promising so far.
Of course, besides the berries that I’m so happy to finally see again this year many of my other summer favorites are starting to ripen too, if not here in warmer locales. The tomato season is upon many families in the southern United States with some of the best slicing tomatoes they’ll taste all year now gracing farmer’s market stands. Don’t forget to pick up a few jars of stewed, diced or whole canned from your favorite producers as well — or grab an extra bushel and do the canning work yourself — this winter when What’s In Season Now columns are just a fond memory and scarce little is growing the taste of summer like that in home-preserved tomatoes will be a welcome addition to any meal.
Other foods to keep your eyes peeled for this month include green beans, peas, beets, summer squash, peaches, cherries, herbs such as mint — of all varieties, but a favorite here is chocolate — parsley, thyme, lavender, cilantro and some of the year’s last fresh asparagus. And remember, tomatoes aren’t the only summer bounty that can be preserved. Pick up enough to keep over for winter now or ask around the market to find out which producers you can expect to have preserves available as the year wears on.
Don’t forget to check out the April and May editions of What’s In Season Now, as well. Depending on your locale many of the suggestions made in both those columns will still apply. And if you’re new to the Farmer’s Market, last year’s how-to guide, How To Shop a Farmer’s Market, is perfect for getting you started.
Until next time, happy local shopping, happy local eating!
Before we get started with July go check out the May and June editions of our What’s In Season Now series, if you haven’t seen them already. Depending on the climate in your locale and the weather your area has experienced this year some — or many — of the suggestions in those columns may still be applicable.
In most places the strawberry season is coming to a close, but those blueberries I mentioned following close behind last month are about to spread their bounty and they will be followed by blackberries and raspberries — both domestic and wild will make an appearance this month — so, luckily, the berry season itself is far from making it’s grand exit for the year.
The tomatoes we talked about last month are now hitting full stride — mostly regardless of geography — as well. I love perusing the stands for interesting heirloom varieties I’ve never tried before. Make a note of those you most enjoy so you remember which to buy extras of — or plant in your own garden or patio pots — next year. Some of our tried and true favorites include Black Krim (my personal favorite), Mr. Stripey (my youngest will devour these by the bushel if I let her), and Green Zebra.
Beside them you’ll probably be able to find beets, carrots, peas, summer squash, zucchini, onions, peaches, plums, early apples, cherries, watermelon, cantaloupe, fresh corn on the cob and herbs of all kinds as July truly marks the height of the summer growing season in many places.
Though, these days, meats are mostly year round in their availability every type tends to have a season all its own nonetheless. Be on the lookout this month for fresh lamb to round out meals made with any of the above.
New to Farmer’s Market shopping? Our 2009 guide, How To Shop Farmer’s Markets, contains helpful tips and tricks to help make the most of your trip. From what to take to how to spot a bargain, it’s all there.
Until next time, happy local shopping, happy local eating!
Last week, in On Inheritance we talked Heirloom tomatoes; their origins, beauty, roots in the land and the way such a simple fruit can connect us with our ancestors, the generations past. This week, we’ll take a more practical look at the summer’s most coveted bounty with some of the best recipes from around the web.
After decades of conditioning to the acceptance of dull, pale, supermarket varieties one of the biggest questions people have about heirloom tomatoes is what to do with them. Sure, they’re pretty, but how do we eat them? Everyone knows they’re great for slicing, but a rare few know the true breadth of a good heirloom’s culinary possibilities.
Prior to the relatively recent industrialization of our food system however, heirlooms were all that existed and as such the possibilities for their uses extend as far as our imaginations. From salads to sauces, pizzas to pastas heirloom tomatoes are the perfect accompaniment to just about any dish and even make great waves as the dinner table headliner themselves. That said, without further ado, some of the best heirloom tomato recipes I’ve found to date:
Food Network gives a well-received template for creating an heirloom tomato salsa, my only tweak to their system would be to encourage you not to limit yourself to one variety of tomato. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different textures, colors and tastes to find the blend you enjoy most.
Martha Stewart offers her rendition of the all-American Friday night dinner with her Oven-Dried Heirloom Tomato Pizza and there’s really no sense in trying to improve a recipe from the master, especially when it doesn’t get any simpler. I love how she lets the tomatoes flavor take center stage in this one with just a dash of pepper to spice things up.
Sea Salt With Food’s Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad doesn’t specifically call for heirloom tomatoes, but substituted for the conventional grape tomatoes the heirloom would really make it pop.
And last, but certainly not least, one I have not tried but that I couldn’t help but be fascinated with; Cheddar Cheese Pancakes with Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette — yes, I said warm bacon — from Sippity Sup. Try it and let me know what you think. It has both tomatoes and bacon so it has to be good.
Until next week, happy tomato eating!
* Heirloom Tomato Art in this column is by Big Bean Photos, f2 Images and Darrah Parker, respectively. Because Tomatoes are not just for eating, but also good for decorating. So go get yourself a print, or ten.
It’s been a while since anything that grows in the dirt has been in-season here. It’s been a while, as a matter of fact, since anyone has even seen the dirt here. This past winter has been long and cold for many northerners — and cold for many southerners, too — so it really was with unspeakable joy that I picked up the “pen” to write March’s edition of What’s In Season Now. Truly, unspeakable.
March isn’t spring here yet, but it is the unofficial beginning to the transition between it and winter. It is a month of hope, of melting snow and renewed vigor for life. It’s a month when anything is possible and the whole growing season is before us. The countdown begins; less than two months until rhubarb and asparagus, less than three until strawberries. The pantry stocks may be dwindling and we may be growing quickly weary of the pasta, potatoes and beans that make up so much of the basis of meals these days, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is the prospect of bountiful harvest just there at the tip of our grasp. It’s coming.
In the meantime, cold season veggies should be cropping up as the farmer’s markets near you as they open up for the season. Be on the look-out for:
- Greens – Spinach, Lettuces, Chard, Kale, Collards and more.
- Meats & Dairy – Products ‘on the hoof’ are never out of season.
- Potatoes – Sweet and white, depending on your location.
- Apples – Not necessarily ‘in-season’ but they store well so last fall’s harvest may still be available from some suppliers in your area.
- And more…
Of course, you may also want to check out last year’s March Edition of What’s In Season Now and if you’re not sure where to find a farmer’s market near you, you can always depend on Local Harvest for help. And for newbies and seasoned shoppers alike the farmer’s market shopping guide that was featured right here at Try Handmade may also be a great resource! Happy shopping and happy spring!
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All of the stunning food photography featured in this post is available for purchase on Etsy. Click the photo you’re interested in above and you’ll be taken directly to the seller’s store. Personally, I think there is no better way to decorate a kitchen.