3 Herb Mamas

Seasonal Living: Life is a Bowl of Cherries

on June 24, 2014

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It has been said that life is a bowl of cherries. And it is…at least if you live in our area right now. It looks like the local orchards and farms will be enjoying as good a year for cherries as it has been a bad one for strawberries. A late cold snap and heavy frost with a freeze at a vulnerable time when the strawberries were blooming resulted a dismal harvest for most farmers and gardeners. It was time to renew our strawberry bed so last fall I removed all of the older, depleted plants to the compost pile and started with fresh disease-free roots this spring. As many of you may know, you cannot harvest strawberries the first year from June-bearing types, which are my favorite kind. Instead, it is necessary to remove all of the blossoms the first year as they come on so that the energy will go into building strong root systems for a heavy second year crop of delicious berries. That task was made easier for me given the severe late weather. I wasn’t expecting to harvest this year so the loss was not as acute as it was for many area farmers. Although I was able to procure a small amount of strawberries to make a couple of scanty batches of jam, the 2014-2015 culinary year promises to have very few strawberry themed dishes.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the cherries are on now and crowding center stage as only those lovely, sweet (and tart!) luscious fruits can.

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All of this, coupled with daily meanderings through our gardens, left me pondering seasonal eating. It seemed like a perfect time to kick off this facet of the 3 herb mamas blog. Grocery stores, modern food preservation methods, media and advertising have led most of us to assume that we can and should have access to everything from melons and berries to fresh cream and eggs (Yes, these do have seasons!) anytime we wish to indulge a whim for them, be it during a blizzard in February or the sultry dog days of summer. I would be the last person to suggest that we eschew all forms of food preservation for enjoying the bounty after their peak fresh eating season has passed. My pantry and freezers are always well-stocked before the first snows fly.

However, there are many good reasons to follow the seasons for the bulk of our diet as much as it is possible for each of us. These include:

*Optimum nutritional value 

*Optimum flavor and texture

*Reacquainting ourselves with natural rhythms and cycles of nature

*Either growing our own favorite vegetables and fruits or supporting others who do so locally

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Until I had tasted a literally fresh-picked pea and shelled it directly into my mouth a second or two after it came off the vine, I never understood the term sweet peas. I quickly learned that my young children preferred these over candy and found that I needed to harvest alone if I wanted any shell peas to make it into the gathering basket. Both sweet corn and peas begin to convert their natural sugars into starch as soon as they are picked. I cherish the memories of my grandfather who refused to go pick the corn for our evening meal until the water in which it was going to be cooked was almost boiling. He would run back from the garden with his arms loaded with fresh ears of corn and my cousins and I would “shuck like the wind” and rush them over to the big pot of boiling water. A meal would be enjoyed that no king’s table could surpass!

It may take time and a whole new perspective to begin to eat and live seasonally, given our current temperature controlled, monotonous daily environments and schedules, but it is well worth the effort. I promise. If you don’t have time or space or inclination to garden, then frequent your local farms and farmer’s markets. This is a great site for finding pick-your-own farms (in the U.S.) near you: http://www.pickyourown.org . Also check you phone directory for area farms. Buying direct from the grower at the peak of season is often a rock bottom bargain that no couponing or sales can match. In my area right now there are still a wide variety of greens, cherries, squash, onions, garlic, broccoli and other cole crops available.

In our own garden the spinach and cilantro are bolting but the kale is still holding on, sweet peas are maturing and producing even with our family picking every evening. The blueberries are just starting to ripen although the crop does not look as heavy as it has been some years. Radishes are done but I have left some in the ground in some of the beds after reading that this repels pests that are attracted to cucumbers and squash. The Basil is getting serious now with the warmer days and I do believe it is officially Pesto Season! The Mint and Parsley are lush and fragrant, which means there is no holding back with a family favorite, Tabbouleh. (I just love ethnic recipes that would laugh at the more typical ingredient lists for herbs and spices that measure in teaspoons and tablespoons. My Tabbouleh recipe requires me to gather a big basket of Parsley and Mint. Delicious, refreshing, and satisfying!)

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TABBOULEH

2 cups Bulgur (cracked wheat)

2 cups boiling water

3 cups Parsley, finely minced

1/2 cup Mint, finely minced

3 green Onions, chopped

1/4 tsp. freshly ground Black Pepper

1/4 tsp. ground Cumin seed

1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 medium Tomatoes, diced

2 Cucumbers, diced

3 Tbsp. fresh Lemon juice

3 Tbsp. Olive oil

Romaine Lettuce

Presoak the Bulgur by covering with the boiling water and allowing to stand for 1 hour. Combine all of the other ingredients except for the lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. When the Bulgur is ready add it to the large bowl along with the lemon juice and olive oil. Toss all to combine well. Chill for at least one hour before serving. Works fine to make it a day ahead. I love summer time foods like Tabbouleh because they are filling and satisfying while also being refreshing and light. Plus, there is no need to heat up the kitchen on a hot summer day. Serve rolled up in fresh, crispy Romaine leaves along with some fresh fruits or veggies from the garden.

Seasonal Living blog posts will appear the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at least, although sometimes more often if an impending harvest warrants.

Happy Summer to All! ~Leenie


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