High Summer-by Georgia Totten~Sioux Falls

High summer brings images of tall stands of corn; Saturday afternoons spent sipping cold drinks between outdoor chores, stopping to visit with the neighbors, and listening to the swell and fall of cicadas in the trees. Windless, fog infused mornings with humidity so heavy that one can hardly breathe just doesn’t fit that picture, but here we are at the end of July, and there is nothing stirring.

Still, the produce at the market was abundant yesterday. Jensen’s had a whole truckload of sweet corn, and it was going pretty fast; indeed, all the vegetable vendors had nice displays of eggplant and cabbage, different kinds of beans, potatoes and carrots, herbs and greens, with lettuce still available in good variety.  The heady aroma of new bread intermingling with the fresh scent of just picked corn and other vegetables was impossible to pass, so I bought a loaf, some tomatoes and lettuce and headed home for my own version of an English ploughman’s lunch.  I had to wait in a few lines to procure these, but it was well worth my time.

This morning I read on the KELO website that the Salvation Army just had a Christmas in July fundraiser.  This created a segue of sorts; directing my thoughts to the fall and winter holidays, and it occurred to me that many of the items for sale at our market would make good holiday gifts, or a nice addition to a holiday dinner. There is some very nice jewelry for sale there, as well as packages of dried pasta in a really impressive variety, those and the specialty jams, sauces and canned salsas would make good additions to a homemade gift basket (as would one’s own home canned foods) and this prompted me to start making lists in preparation, something to do indoors while waiting for our “real” summer to return.  One year I gave gift packages comprised of items made in South Dakota, and they were well received.  Perhaps this year my theme will be to “support community and the environment by buying local,” an idea that is becoming universal in the common sense it imparts.  I know one of my favorite gifts has been a jar of homemade honey and pecan jelly from a sister in Tennessee, who orders it from a woman in her small community there.  A spoonful of that jelly on a hot buttered biscuit is such a treat! 

With the heat index predicted to climb to dangerous levels again this coming week, early morning or later in the day will be the best time to get out and perform those tasks that cannot be put aside.  As a suggestion to make this easier to manage, I’ll share my plan of attack; I divide my mowing into sections and do one part over each of three days, first the front, then the back yard, then the area behind the fence.  That enables me to keep my asthma under control (not to mention that unruly mob of torch wielding neighbors from pounding on my door— Get out here and cut the grass!).  The weeds, on the other hand, are once again out of control in some areas, and will just have to languish a bit longer.

Still no pole beans forming on the garden trellis, and it doesn’t look very promising, but I did notice quite a few bees in numerous cucumber blooms, so am hoping to salvage at least that part of this year’s plan. Then while watching a re-broadcast of Garden Line yesterday, I learned that in dry times, blossoms don’t produce as much nectar, and this will limit the time for attracting the pollinators.  Well that makes sense, but I realize that our short dry spell coincided with my own cucumber blossoms, even though I believe I kept them evenly watered.  So I hope that they too, don’t succumb to the same failure as my pole beans; but as a farming co-worker stated just the other day, farmers don’t have to be in Vegas if they want to gamble. That goes for home gardeners, as well.

Here is a quick way to enjoy either eggplant or zucchini (from the back yard or the market), which are interchangeable in this recipe.

Fried Eggplant or Zucchini

Two small eggplants or the equivalent amount of zucchini.

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp of seasoned salt and 1/8 tsp white pepper

2 eggs beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Equal parts of oil and butter to cover the bottom of a heavy fry pan (maybe start with a few tablespoons of each, adding a bit more as needed)

 Peel and slice vegetables into ½ inch rounds

Combine the flour and seasoned salt

Heat oil until it just begins to shimmer

Dredge the vegetables in the egg and water mixture, then in the flour mixture

Sauté until light brown and crusted (this just takes a minute or two), first on one side then the other (*maintain just a steady oil/butter temperature but don’t let it get too hot, as the flour will easily burn)

Remove to a doubled paper towel to absorb any excess oil while continuing to cook remaining pieces

Serve warm as a side.  These are also good at room temperature.