Here we are at the beginning of August, facing another turn in the season. In the fields, the majority of the action turns from leafing and flowering to fruiting and maturation. Our planting and sowing work is almost over, and from here on out, we’ll be mostly focused on harvest, harvest, harvest.
Fittingly, we started putting a few items in the freezer for the winter this weekend. We’ve had some years when we spend a lot of energy on “putting up” food, but since we farm year-round and grow lots of storage crops (cabbage, apples, etc.), there’s really not much pressure to do much preserving or putting up anymore. Either way, as long as we keep up with our farming work, we’ll have food to eat. But it certainly is special to bake with blackberries in January or add corn to chili in February, so this year we’re at least putting a few items in the freezer for later.
A friend and I were discussing August’s energy today at length. It feels like a poignant time to me, tinged with the golden light that makes beautiful moments feel touched by nostalgia even while they are happening. There’s an awareness that the summer will end and in not that long. Even as harvests pick up, there’s a lazy feel in the air and a desire to soak in the activities that can only happen in this warm part of the year — notably, swimming in the river. We hear crickets now at dusk, and the swallows come out by the hundreds at the same time. All harbingers of changes to come. Not yet, but not too far away either. It’s time to prepare, for sure.
August’s glow can also turn harsh at times too — when there is dust or wildfire smoke in the air and the heat bears down on people and the landscape. I felt some of that (the dust especially) over this last week. They are reminders that if we kept on this trajectory, we would shrivel and dry up before too long. We need that return to the wet and dark in order to recharge the aquifers and keep the forests alive.
Also, in August the flavors and colors on our plates intensify with all the fruits of the late summer season. We hope you enjoyed the sampling of the first tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant of the year — what we anticipated as being a small item ended up being plentiful indeed! August can surprise us that way with its gifts of abundance!
One of our favorite ways to appreciate the flavors of August is by making a simple ratatouille dish. This is a classic seasonal stew that exists, in my mind, to honor and highlight the flavors that only exist in late summer.
My method of making it is very simple. Gather the appropriate summer ingredients: onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers. The ratios don’t matter much, because this is a fresh seasonal food intended to reflect the garden’s offerings. To keep it simple, I don’t even peel the tomatoes.
Chop everything. I always start by melting butter or olive oil in a large pan. Then I sauté the onions, garlic and peppers until soft, then I add the tomatoes and let them start to stew. Finally, I add the zucchini and eggplant and let the whole thing stew until the flavors are melded and the vegetables are soft. It’s a stew, so I like to cook things until they’re pretty mushy, but I’ve eaten ratatouille where the vegetables are firmer, and it’s delicious too!
Honestly, this simple dish is excellent because it starts with excellent ingredients. Your main job as cook is to not burn it (a good pan is key here, along with stir) and let the ingredients go through an alchemical transformation in your pan. Salt to taste and serve with cheese or bread or salad or steak (or all four!). It’s also delicious served over pasta, rice, or potatoes. Leftovers are yummy too.
To even further enhance the August-eating experience, I recommend eating it outside. Just watch out for yellow-jackets, because they are part of August too! I’ll be making ratatouille this August — how about you?
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
P.S. We also had our annual organic inspection this last week, and it went well! It always feels good to have that particular hoop behind us for the year.
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Meet this week’s vegetables: The hardest part of this week’s CSA experience is going to be choosing your vegetables! August is abundant in options! New this week: summer cabbage! These summer cabbage varieties are much less dense than winter storage cabbage, making them especially well suited to cole slaw. Our salad supplies are limited at the moment, so we encourage you to consider slaw for this week’s menu!
Also, carrots are back!