Enjoying Summer’s Bounty

What a week we all experienced last week; the heat at the markets was as bad as most of us can remember. This week we are all looking forward to a little break and some rain for the farmers.

It doesn’t take many days of mid-90s temperatures to cause some withering in the fields. We are lucky at our Reston market to have farmers coming from the north, south, and west, as the weather in all those places can be very different on the same day. When it was raining here every day for two weeks, Tyson Farms in West Virginia and our sustainable farmers west of us in Virginia were not getting nearly so much rain. At the same time, Ignacio was losing newly planted crops to heavy rains that washed the seedlings away.

One thunderstorm with just two minutes of hail can wipe out a crop; tree fruits are especially vulnerable. But a week like last week can burn up a field in no time. We look at the weather as a matter of convenience; our farmers depend on it for their livelihoods. While we may lose a day at the pool, they could lose thousands of dollars and lots of invested time and labor. It’s important to think about what they go through to bring food to our tables.

For now they are all bringing their best and brightest crops to market, and the market really is abundant with the bounty of the good earth. We enjoyed the tomatoes, corn, and squash all weekend at my house, and I have a recipe for you for Summer Bread Salad that is simple, fast, and really does taste like summer. Feel free to add and subtract as you wish–take out the beans, add corn. Use whatever herbs you have on hand and whatever tomatoes you picked out this week. Work color into the mix with a variety of tomatoes and peppers. Have your way with this recipe, and it will still reward your efforts.

Which reminds me of a couple more tips. I keep seeing a suggestion for cutting the kernels off an ear of raw corn that involves putting the ear of corn into a bowl and slicing straight into the bowl. That’s a pain in the neck! If the idea is to reduce the number of kernels that go flying off the counter and across the floor, then the easiest thing to do is cut the ear in half, which can be done with a sharp knife pushed into an ear that is lying on your cutting board. Wiggle the knife back and forth until you can just break the ear in half. Watch this video to see what I mean. A farmer taught me that, and I have used the technique ever since. You do not really have to cut all the way through the ear, which can be tricky.

Another technique tip for you: When you are using just-picked tomatoes from the market or your garden, they will peel very easily; the skins will almost slide off once you start on a section. Even if you are peeling as many as 10 tomatoes, hand-peeling them with a sharp paring knife is still faster than boiling a pot of water and dropping the tomatoes in for a minute and then “slipping off the skins.” This works as long as the tomatoes are fresh from the vine (a nearby vine, not one in California).