Post and art by Martha Slavin, a Frog Hollow Farm CSA Member.
If you are like me, you can think of two things that make summer wonderful. You have to know, first, that summer is not my favorite time of the year. With heatwave after heatwave this year, I am spending a lot of time in our cool downstairs. When the heat waves blow off, we have had brilliant blue skies, cool evenings, and perfect temperatures during the day to relax under our shade trees. We can watch the antics of the butterflies as they float through the air, never stopping on any one bush, or we can observe the birds scramble at the bird feeders, or laugh at the squirrels who chase each other across the roof and take a flying leap into the trees, shaking down the Japanese maple seeds that we traipse into the house on the bottom of our shoes.
Secondly, summer brings favorite foods: corn on the cob and peaches. Corn on the cob, especially young white corn with kernels ripe enough to snap open when pressed, then grilled, roasted, or plopped into boiling, sugary water for 5 minutes, and eaten as is or brushed with melted butter, salt, and pepper. Peaches, their subtle aroma, filling the air around me as I slice them. Eaten whole with the juices dripping down my arm, or grilled or sauteed in butter and then mixed with a tangy sauce that brings out the peach flavor. These are summertime foods to savor and remember along with the wildlife that makes our backyard garden an oasis in summer.
Though I love to garden, I gave up on growing vegetables and fruit because of the constant battle with wildlife who loved what we grew as much as we did. I think often of organic farmers and wonder how they manage to grow enough of anything to sell. Our garden is now one filled with deer-resistant plants, many with varied-colored leaves that add needed color to our garden. Just one cherry tomato plant in our front yard gives us some sweet, fresh-picked fruit to eat.
Halfway up the hill in our backyard, we planted a peach tree. In hindsight, we wonder why we planted a fruit tree on a hill. Not easy pickings. The original thought was to continue to prune the tree to keep the fruit in reach. That didn't happen. Now the tree is a spindly twenty feet tall. We can't reach the new fruit to thin them out nor can we trim the branches safely. Too precarious to lean a ladder from any direction to pluck off some of the buds so that the remaining peaches will grow huge and flavorful. Someone suggested placing the young fruit inside drink bottles to let them grow to a good size as they do in Japan. But that means climbing a ladder. We still watch for new fruit in June. Some years there are only a few marble-sized peaches. This year the tree is covered with clumps of fruit.
We watch as the peaches get bigger and bigger, not ripe yet, but just enough to make the squirrels begin to knock them down and bite into them, leaving half-eaten fruit on the deck. I walk up to the tree and shake it hard. The ripe fruit that is left jiggles and one or two falls. I grab them off the ground and hope they didn't bruise. We will have just a few peaches from this year's bounty to savor.
We order a CSA mini-box from Frog Hollow Farm, a long-time organic farm near us. We pick up the box twice a month all year long, but in summer the fruits are at their best. In California, being a small farmer becomes harder and harder because of the drought and wildfires. The wildfires can affect the taste of fruit such as grapes and the drought can mean a field is left fallow for another year. Frog Hollow Farm is one of many small farms in California and they have used sustainable farming methods for a long time. They need our help to continue to provide the luscious food that they grow.
This week is National Farmers' Market Week. If you have a farmers' market near you, you can find just-ripe fruit and fresh vegetables to make smoothies, cobblers, salads, and other favorite recipes -- almost as good as walking out your door to pick something from your own garden, plus you support another family or group of families besides.