This is a fortunate and satisfying time of year. All around us gardens, both flower and vegetable, are racing to peak season. Even those that were planted late (like ours) are showing their produce potential as they hurry to ripen as the season begins its curve toward harvest and yes, ultimately fall and winter. This is not a bad thing, remember? These seasons are all part of the plan, and a large part of why I live here. And this is the season of abundance and plenty when it comes to fresh, local flowers, fruits and vegetables!
We’ve been back from vacation long enough to have gotten caught up with lawn mowing and house-cleaning and are now facing the garden. This is a slightly more daunting, yet also more rewarding task. There are weeds -- lots of them -- but caring for the plants that are working so hard to yield so much makes us feel especially proud about the way things are turning out.
Our basil is booming, broccoli plants are huge, sturdy, round ball carrots are ready to be plucked from the dirt. Eggplant is growing fast, although we have yet to see any blooms -- we’ll keep our fingers crossed. Margot’s cabbage plant that she received from school at the end of third grade is enormous and ready to be harvested, crowding out the bolting cilantro and shading the lettuces nicely. Still no shortage of kale -- or eggs, for that matter, much to the frustration of the possum who tried to sneak in the coop on Tuesday at 2 a.m.
I’ve got arugula and spinach seeds ready to plant when the lettuce and cilantro are done. My co-worker Joe was more than happy to share some of his summer squash and cucumbers -- and we were more than happy to take them off his hands. Mom dropped off some green beans (mine never did get planted) as well as sugarsnap peas and told me that her peaches are almost ripe. Margot and her friend Sarah made applesauce from some of the first apples of the season at Farm Camp up at Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford, the favorite camp of the summer -- Margot is excited to be attending two sessions this summer. My friend Sue and I were making a quick list of the things that we want to make sure we do this season and picking blueberries is definitely one of them. It is a season to celebrate for sure.
While thrilled with not just the fact that most of our garden did get planted this year, but also that it seems to be doing so well, I am a bit sad about my rotten, runty cauliflower crop and the fact that the green beans were neglected. But I think that the single thing I am saddest about has been our raspberries.
We have two red raspberry patches planted from canes given to us by my grandmother. They have thrived ever since we put them in, even though one is right along the road and another is pretty close to the eaves where the snow falls in huge, rock-hard banks in the winter. And they continue to thrive and bear lots of fruit -- but between schedules and lots of rain, we just haven’t been able to pick as many berries as we would like to. We were leaving for vacation just as they were beginning to ripen and we happily encouraged friends and neighbors to help themselves. Once we got home it seemed like every time we were ready to go out and pick, it rained hard and the berries turned to smush on the cane. So, none have been frozen, no jam has been made and we are definitely at the end of the season as proven by the dwindling number of berries.
But we did enjoy what berries we were able to pick and in some ways this "shortage" makes them seem all the sweeter. Wonka and I pick and eat a few as we got home from our early morning walks. I’ve made muffins and we picked and ate them with the neighbors while chatting in the evenings. A small handful was turned decadent sprinkled on ‘napoleons’ made with thin slices of pound cake, spread with a bit of last year’s jam and layered with whipped cream and berries. But the favorite of all was the fool.
Fool is a simple dessert made by combining pureed fruit with sweetened whipped cream. The name has always caught my attention (maybe even a "fool" can make it?) so when I actually stopped to see what it was all about I thought it would be the perfect way to use the smattering of berries I had picked one afternoon. I chose to make this fool a perfect, light pink sprinkled with a few whole berries but many people swirl the puree into the whipped cream for a dramatic effect (we don’t need any more drama in this house, thanks!). It is simple, delicious and wonderful way to enjoy the flavor and beauty of ripe berries.
2 cups red raspberries (or blackberries, strawberries, etc)
2 tablespoons to 1Ž4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup whipping cream
Puree the berries in a food processor or blender. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, press through a fine sieve to remove the seeds, which can be discarded (or fed to the chickens). Whip the cream until quite stiff, then fold in the sugar until well blended. Add the berry puree and fold in until an even and consistent pink color. Spoon carefully into serving dishes (wine glasses here) and chill for at least 1 hour. Top with a couple whole berries.
I would love to think that we could pick enough berries to make one more fool this summer, but as luck would have it we will be travelling again this weekend and I think that by the time we get back the raspberries will be done. So I will console myself with walking through our yard and choosing a variety of flowers to make a bouquet to set in a 1Ž2 gallon mason jar on the dining room table, perhaps adding to the fabulous sunflower that Margot brought home from camp. While calling this bouquet a "consolation" it is really another way to celebrate this full and bounteous season -- and we will enjoy every bit of it as it comes and goes in its own cycle and time.
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.