This summer has had a series of highs and lows. I’m sure the plants were confused last month as much as I in trying to deal with temperature swings close to 50 degrees within a few days. Because of yet another bout with ehrlichiosis given to me by some local tick, I had to delay my summer solstice supper for a month to mid-July. I hadn’t thought much of it but then I hadn’t anticipated how 90-degree-plus temperatures would influence the dinner.
Perhaps the first thing is that by mid-July the harvest season is going gangbusters: pickings are not nearly as slim or as limited if you want to serve a dinner that is harvested from crops within a 50-mile radius of Danbury, CT. July represents the cusp of the cold and warm harvesting seasons, separated by the digging up of garlic. Early corn has started to come in and strawberries are on their last legs. The unrelenting heat makes the cold crops of lettuce, peas, and radishes harder to maintain and grow. Their absence is more than compensated by increasing quantities of squash, tomatoes, fresh herbs and green beans.
Berries help us remember the season’s progression starting with strawberries in the late spring, blueberries for the early summer, raspberries in mid-summer and blackberries in late summer. By the time the blackberries are finished, children are ready to go back to school, pools emptied and sandals returned to the closet.
Salad (deer tongue, slow bolt and read leaf lettuce; sorrel; purslane; spinach; mesclun, nasturtium) grown in Bethel and Ridgefield, CT
Potato baguettes made in Ridgefield, CT
Garlic scape/basil pesto pasta made/grown in Ridgefield, CT
Tomato (grown in Bethel, CT) quiche
Broccoli (grown in Bethel, CT) quiche
Swiss chard (grown in Ridgefield, CT) quiche
Blueberry (grown in Hammonton, NJ, and Ridgefield, CT) pie
Strawberry Rhubarb (grown in North Haven/Ridgefield) pie
It was pretty easy to get all the dairy products from local Connecticut providers though it can be surprising how many of our “native” foods originate from around the world. For example, Lettuce (Egypt), Potato & Tomato (South America), Garlic & Basil (Central Asia), Swiss Chard & Broccoli (Mediterranean), Rhubarb (China) and Strawberry (European hybrid) have all been accepted as “local” foods. No wonder the early Pilgrims starved as they (and to a large degree) and most of us have little connection to the truly local or native foods.
While last year we had a wonderful dinner out on the outside deck, this year’s event needed to be brought indoors given the excess of bugs and heat. Like last year, food seems to bring out the clients and I had a full group ready to chow down.
“Let’s go out for a walk before dinner,” I suggested.
While that invite is often accepted with excitement, more than a few of the group motioned as if they would rather stay inside but accepted that the only way to be fed would be to venture outdoors. As we walked out the back, I showed the group our new herb garden as well as our mint walk. Quickly the discomfort from the heat melted away as the group was fascinated by all the differing smells along the walk as well as in the garden. They paid little attention to the heat as they sampled rosemary, sage, thyme, mints and all the other herbs we have planted.
As we walked the back area, however, the spring flowers had long since faded and a population of hungry bugs were starting to take their place (as well as their toll.) A tour which in past years would take nearly 45 minutes was shortened to 10 and with that we all retreated inside ready to eat. It seems as if everyone enjoyed themselves as there was little conversation and lots of munching.
“Did you really make all this?”
“How did you make your crust?”
“What is in the chard quiche?”
“The bread is wonderful. How do you use potatoes in it?”
For me, it was difficult to eat as I tried to answer everyone’s questions and before I knew it most everyone was finished with supper and polishing off their dessert before I had a chance to bring out the whipped cream. Only a few got to try it on their pie, however, most took a guilty spoonful before they left for the evening.