Summer has finally arrived here in New England, reflected in the variety and bounty of products available at this week’s Farmers’ Market and in our first CSA share of the year.
The Farmers’ Market acquisitions this week: granola, cheddar English muffins, Sweet Orange Chili Relish, lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, radishes, snap peas, goat kabob meat, tomatoes, basil, strawberries, and chocolate mint patties. Everything is locally raised, grown, or produced.
I am trying a new strategy this year at the Market, envisioning how each product can be worked into a meal before I buy it. Early days yet, but it has been successful so far, keeping me from overspending because it All. Looks. So. Good. The goat kabob has already been kabobed, on the grill, with the zucchini, served with a yogurt sauce using a small dollop of the chili relish, only a small one, because it is hotter than heck. A green salad with lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and snap peas, and cornbread, made with the mix I bought last week, rounded out the meal.
Yes, I had to buy strawberries. We went through 10 pounds of berries in a week, with me squirreling away only 2 pounds in the freezer.
But Sunday morning I picked 11 more pounds. They were perfectly ripe, shining plump and red in the sun like the gems of summer they are. Some of them were surprisingly large, and I had to move to a different part of the patch to pick smaller ones, the size I like to freeze. I will probably freeze 2 or 3 pounds of those, and the rest are being eaten sliced on cereal at breakfast, with whipped cream for dessert, and straight from the basket that sits on the kitchen table, just as they are. I may try picking again this week, because that field was full of berries just on the edge of ripeness, and picking them myself is much more economical than buying baskets already picked. Strawberry season is painfully short, and we never feel as if we’ve gotten enough of them.
Opening day at our CSA is one of my favorite days of the year. This is its tenth year in operation, and our tenth year as members, and it is a fine place to spend a morning, with chickens and goats and grasshoppers and birds and fine, green, growing things. The farmer, Marcy, has a real love for farming, and it shows year after year. I always pick up my share on Tuesdays, so I can chat with my friend Judy, who watches the stand on Tuesdays. We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but we both love the farm and what it represents in our community.
The CSA share was worth waiting for an extra week: salad greens, swiss chard, kale, arugula, radishes, bok choy, Chinese cabbage (a new offering!), sweet peas (pick-your-own), lemon basil and purple basil. Eggs are not part of the share, but they are worth paying for. They are fresher than anything in the grocery store, and the yolks are an astonishing shade of yellow-orange. I see lots of salads, and Ottolenghi’s Chard and Saffron Omelettes in our future (which are lovely with or without saffron, if you don’t have any.) We will get shares of kale almost every week, so I always freeze half of it for the winter. There are some stir-fry makings in there, and the peas are so sweet and perfect with a bit of mint from my own garden and some cream, and maybe some pasta, and while we’re at it, maybe some pancetta.
The sun is shining. The refrigerator is loaded with fresh produce. My knives are sharp. My mouth is watering. My kitchen is ready for summer, and so is my soul.