August, the eighth month; a time when there is no longer any denying that what stands just on the other side of these long, hot days is autumn. The year is two-thirds over. And, I loathe to admit, in many locales so is the growing season. Last week the ripening of my tomatoes came on in earnest. Just in time, as a sick and demented cosmic plot twist would have it, for me to leave town for 5 days. While it’s a time, as I mentioned in both On Inheritance and Cooking Up History recently, I look forward to with great gusto every year it’s also a time when I’m forced to face the truth. Unlike July when what awaited me on the other side of long, hot days was more long, hot days all that awaits me now is autumn. And, as much as I love falling leaves, back-to-school, pumpkin pie and knobby sweaters I hate — yes, I said hate — the dwindling period of yet another growing season. Even if it will be filled with some of the year’s most satisfying meal prospects.
Unfortunately for some areas — especially those in the deep south and the southwest — where the weather is too hot even for heat loving varieties this is already largely a reality. But before we go feeling too sorry for them, or them for themselves, remember those locales will have a second growing season just as the rest of the country is laboring the get the most out of the end of their first and only. So if you’re in a location where much of the summer’s bounty is taking a back seat to killer temperatures, hang in there and check back in next month when the availability of local produce will pick back up by leaps and bounds in your area. Just don’t stop visiting your farmer’s markets in the meantime, there is still plenty to find there.
And for the rest of us; what can we expect to find gracing farmer’s stands this month? Look for heat loving produce and those items that require a long growing season to be ripening by the bushels in August. Peaches, those tasty tomatoes we’ve been discussing and peppers of all varieties — the hotter the better if you ask me — as pictured will all be available in many places, but alongside them you’ll probably also find sweet corn, okra, plums, melons, cucumbers, figs, nectarines, eggplant and apricots.
Until next month, Happy Farmer’s Market Shopping!