The summer abounds with inspirational flavours in every field and planter. Corn is especially prevalent and it always looks too good to just buy one or two cobs. My eyes are often bigger than my stomach and it's very easy to overload on ears at the farmgate. The trouble with having too much fresh corn - the longer it's been off the stalk the starchier it will taste.
Just like a few other sweet vegetables (especially asparagus and peas), the sugars in the vegetables immediately begin to convert to starches as soon as they are harvested. If you aren't going to consume the corn within a day or two, the taste difference is quite noticeable in the remaining cobs. The way I get around this sugars-to-staches conversion is to cook all my corn at once. Any leftover cobs I don't eat I use a serrated knife to remove the kernals from the cob (in a bowl) then store in the fridge to use over the next several days or store in plastic bags the freezer. I'll be thankful for the freezer-corn when the annual Great January Food Depression starts to rear its ugly head and the markets are shut down.
Plenty of foods can pair with corn and there are just as many dishes to use it in. We're lucky enough to have a local supplier of shiitake mushrooms south of town and they are a perfect match for yellow corn. Serve corn on salads, make a quick relish to use on sandwiches, or add it to a pot of grilled tomato soup. Herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage also are great seasonings along with good ol' fashioned salt & pepper. Smoke from the bbq, bacon or sausage is a personal favourite combo with corn. Cream, butter, olive oil, bacon fat help carry corns flavour across all your taste buds and blue cheese - let's just say it's an earthy, creamy, sharp reminder that fermentation & cheesemaking are lost arts worthy of revival and should be celebrated. Possibly at every meal.
Back when I used to work in grocery stores, people were incredibly predictable with what fresh produce they would buy. I'd like to think that having a culinary background and a good memory was what enabled me to be able to remember produce codes (or PLU's), but the truth is much of the time I was using the same seven to ten codes for the same seven to ten items on every customer's order.
Iceberg lettuce, celery, bananas, hot house tomatoes, green peppers, green onions, english cucumbers, granny smith apples, white button mushrooms...repeat repeat repeat. Those PLU's are so ingrained in my mind I still can recite them from memory.
I couldn't even imagine living in an area with fresh produce all year-round. Those temperate zones like the Mediterranean & California have growing seasons 12 months of the year. The sun sticks around long enough for treasures like olives, artichokes, and blood oranges to grow and mature. I would spend all my money on food if I lived there. Oh, right - more food.
That being said, the middle and end of August in Elgin County is looking pretty spectacular. Edamame, early squash, raspberries, peaches (and peaches and peaches), tobacco, tomatoes, first red peppers, watermelon, pickling cukes, sunflowers, and corn are just the tip of the Elgin Summer Harvest Iceberg. I saw someone walk by earlier with blackberries but by the time I got to the market stall they were sold out...Tuesday is the next picking day, so they say.
I was anticipating being able to return to the Horton Farmers' Market for this years opening weekend but unfortunately it's not going to work out. I will get there - it just won't be on Saturday.
In preparation for the new season, I had started several different ferments and cultures so that I would have some healthy and delicious probiotic products available for sale on Mother's Day. I've been sharing pictures and my progress on my Facebook page but I've neglected to post updates on the blog.
For my lack of sharing with non-Facebook users I apologize.
Along with water kefir tonic beverages, I've fermented sour pickles (using Ontario greenhouse cucumbers), another batch of kimchi, a ginger bug for preparing sodas, purple sauerkraut, and my proud achievement of the week: a successful batch of sauerkraut.
Before asparagus, before rhubarb, and before morel mushrooms there are wild leeks. If asparagus is the King of Spring then the ramp (aka wild leek) is the Prince. A prince more like Harry then William with a wild streak that just loves to bare it all in the naturalness of its surroundings. Strong and stately, with leaves that stand above the forest floor, the ramp is the first vegetation available for harvest after the winter thaw.
The ramp, formally known as Allium tricoccum is also known by many other names including: wild leek, forest leek, spring onion, or wild garlic. As you can guess, ramps look and taste like garlic and onion. A much sought-after occurrence in the food-lover world, the hike alone to find these spring temptations is worth adorning rubber boots and an orange safety vest. I forgot my small spade on my first day foraging but on the second day I was ready for digging. I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful spring morning.
It's been a whirlwind of a week and a lot of changes are happening with Elgin Harvest. I've been feeling 'out of sorts' for the past few days but I'm looking forward to interacting with the crowds and friends for some much needed sharing and smiling.
For the past three years (almost four), I have been a vendor and very active volunteer with the St. Thomas Horton Farmers' Market. Through the market I've had the fortune to meet not only some incredibly unique artisans and passionate farmers, I've also had the fortune to meet and share my love of food with many of the customers that religiously attend the hustling and bustling farmers' market every Saturday morning from May through November.
St. Thomas Horton Farmers' Market is the little market that could. Run by a dedicated part-time market manager with help from generous volunteers and friends, the market is unique to this area in that it is a producer-only market. That means you either have to grow it or make it in order to be a vendor. The market is a small business incubator, has become a centralized community meeting place, and most importantly provides a lively, fun atmosphere with access to fresh and LOCAL foods and products. It's a welcomed contrast to the industrial manufacturing plants and fast food chains that can (and has) overshadowed the city in a monocultured cloud.
With Spring and the beginning of a new market season right around the corner, I know other vendors and market attendees are just itching to get back into the Saturday morning routine of picking up seasonal fruits & veggies, fresh baked goods, and artisanal crafts. While I wait for May to roll around, I'm going to make the best of my time by continuing to experiment with new recipes and culianary techniques and plan out my vegetable garden.
Art, culture, and food are very closely related. Sometimes they are so intertwined we can't know for sure if life is imitating art, or art is imitating life. Having viewed Carl Warner's 'Foodscapes', I feel his works are definite examples that could be categorized as both.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.