Warm sun and cool nights, the promise of plenty that springs in early summer from the gardened ground. The summer solstice and the shortened night, the days that stretch like a cat in sunshine, longer and longer. June.
We are waiting for the first of the truly red ripe tomatoes, but the basil is here, and the tarragon and the lemon verbena and the chives, all fresh and full of flavor. It’s the herbs we are highlighting and celebrating this month, those often overlooked flourishes of greenery that can elevate a meal to new levels of flavor and texture. They rarely get center stage, as their flavors are so strong that they are often used in small amounts. But their oft-small serving size belies the potency of their charms. In the early summer, we have access to the best of all possible herbaceous worlds, those that prefer cooler weather, such as cilantro and parsley, and those that crave the summer heat, like basil and dill.
The first of our herbal experiments was this spicy radish and cilantro salsa. While we’re waiting for the tomatoes to ripen, we eagerly turn to this salsa, at once familiar and unique, to top not just chips, but also fish, cooked grains, tacos, and many other dishes. It’s crunchy, yet cohesive, finely textured and seasoned, and has a mild heat from the radish and hot pepper. Spoon it on your dinner.
From hot to cool, the days and nights swing back and forth. From hot salsa to cool bruschetta, we do the same. But just as there is a hint of coolness in the crisp crunch of radish, so too is there a whisper of heat in the onion relatives that grace this loveliest of bruschettas. Chive flowers star alongside their more well-known reed-like stems, in this creamy, floral, adorable spread for bread.
We swing back toward spice, but not too far; the heat of peppers smoked and hot is a warm foil to green cilantro and parsley. Silky oil and a generous squeeze of lemon juice add layers of flavor to this Moroccan grill sauce. It’s the sauce for summer, and beyond!
You might find the perfect herb blend for this recipe, and make it the same way, every time. Or you might make it different every time, depending on what is fresh and perfect in the garden at the moment. This recipe for herb jelly offers a flexibility rare in canning recipes; it calls for "2 cups packed, coarsely chopped herbs.” Imagine the flexibility there! Lemon verbena and borage flowers, sage and thyme, fennel and basil…the flavor profiles are endless. In this particular version, we snipped and plucked the finest, freshest herbs from the garden right outside the door of our test kitchen, a true flavor snapshot of season and place, captured in a jar.
What else is happening in the garden? We have been hard at work, and are rewarded each day when we take a moment to stop and appreciate what we have created. Each year, each season is different in the garden. But the steady rhythm of growing plants, blooming flowers, bees and bugs, and worms, reminds us of the enduring cycles we are all a part of. Even the follies, bad luck, and mistakes are opportunities to learn and do better. And sometimes, snails eat all the basil. We will plant more.
The Farmer's Market is a favorite destination of ours these days, the bounty of fresh fruit and veg coming into season like a constant stream of sweet and savory surprises. To celebrate the official start of summer, the Felton Market is having their Summer Kick-off event. On Tuesday, June 26th, we'll be contributing to the festivities by holding another of our popular free classes in the heart of the market. In celebration of an iconic summer vegetable, we'll be preparing a fermented zucchini pickle, discussing fermentation basics, and exploring ways to use and customize this tangy, probiotic vegetable preparation. Class starts at 3:30 and runs about an hour, with time for Q&A. Plus, class participants receive a 10% off coupon for the Housewares department at Mountain Feed and Farm Supply. We hope to see you there!
Soak in that summer sun, or chill in the shade with a refreshing beverage. Visit the farmer’s markets, and stop in to see us at the store, to see what’s in bloom. Summer is a time for friends and gardens, for sun and shade and water, for hard work and relaxation and barbecues. Make the most of it! We’re here to help, in any way we can.
This journal and the articles in it were written by Jessica Tunis, unless otherwise noted.