he concept of eating local never makes more sense than during these fleeting summer months, when it seems like everything is ripening and yours for the savouring. Roadside produce stands beckon motorists; neighbours share their garden bounty, and farmers’ markets are filled with every conceivable shade of fruit and vegetable.
I’ve certainly stopped on a few shoulders to pick up a little something for supper, but I’m not fortunate enough to have any generous neighbours (hint, hint). I am, however, fortunate enough to live a stone’s throw from our own farmers’ market. I admit I’ve been slow making the jaunt recently, and if I do make it to the market, it’s usually at a later hour, when the pickings start to slim. But this past Saturday, my commitment was to be at the Farmers’ Market, and I was so pleased to also be able to take advantage of all that was on offer at its opening.
From peaches to cherries to plums and blueberries, there’s something for every palate. Bean fans will be delighted by the robust yellow, green and purple pods, while those tempted by tomatoes will soon forget every sad pale slice they consumed during the off season. It’s hard to resist the desire to buy one of everything (the market’s cash-only policy helps), but if you went overboard, here are some storage tips from Foodland Ontario to preserve those family favourites for the week.
Apricots — ripe apricots can be stored in the refrigerator. Unripe apricots will soften and mellow at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
Beans (any colour) — refrigerate for up to a week dry, unwashed and wrapped in plastic.
Blueberries — store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Can be frozen in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then transferred to freezer bags.
Peaches — if solid to touch, store at room temperature out of direct sun until ripening begins and their skin yields slightly to gentle pressure. Ripe peaches should be kept refrigerated in a single layer for no longer than five days.
Plums — ripen at room temperature out of direct sunlight or in a loosely closed brown paper bag. Ripe plums should be refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible.
Raspberries — must be refrigerated if not consumed immediately. They can also be frozen, similar to blueberries.
Sweet corn — best if eaten immediately, but cobs can be stored in the fridge in husks for two to three days.
Tomatoes — store at room temperature away from direct sunlight to avoid uneven ripening. Store in the butter compartment only if they are becoming overripe or your house is extremely warm, but bring them back to room temperature before consuming.
Regardless of preferred produce, it’s probably safe to say that our collective lettuce consumption increases during the summer months. So many of us rely on those bag mixes that an unwashed head of iceberg, romaine or otherwise can be daunting. Foodland Ontario suggests refrigerating unwashed heads well wrapped in paper, then tearing, rinsing and draining well before use.
But if you’re a habitual salad eater, it’s wise to invest in a salad spinner; years of receiving Ann Slater’s seasonal vegetable delivery have made me a firm believer. It takes a painstakingly long time to fully dry lettuce leaves with towels, and dressing just doesn’t stick to damp leaves. Salad spinners are fast and fun to use, and can serve as an extra colander. Most importantly, they actually dry your leaves.
Aside from the pleasures of sweet corn, peaches are at the height of perfection right now. While they are a delight to eat fresh, here’s an interesting twist using that other fair-weather favourite, the barbecue.
4 large ripe freestone peaches
8 cinnamon sticks
1 bunch fresh mint
8 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup bourbon (or apple juice)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Peach or vanilla ice cream for serving
Rinse peaches and blot dry. Cut each peach to the crease to the pit to create halves, then twist to separate the halves, and remove pit. Using a skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each quarter. Skewer two peach quarters on each cinnamon stick, with a mint leaf between.
Combine butter, brown sugar, bourbon, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the glaze boil until thick and syrupy, about five minutes.
Set up grill for direct grilling, and preheat to high.
When ready, brush and oil the grill grate. Place skewered peaches on grate and grill until nicely browned, 3-4 minutes per side, basting with glaze. Scoop ice cream into bowls and top with peaches. Spoon remaining glaze on top and serve at once.