As a local vegetable grower, I am intimately entwined with the rhythm of the seasons. Occasionally my life is actually as full of nature’s mystery and romance as the previous sentence would have you believe; when a stroll through the fields just after the spring snow melt brings me within fifteen feet of a preening sandhill crane; when I harvest tomatoes amid a choir of pollinating bumble bees; when a night time visit to the garden allows me to witness the exact instant the first frost of fall hits. I can happily claim all those joys and more as my own, but mostly my life is like that of any other working mother: hectic! Spring strolls are cluttered with mile long to-do lists as I prepare for the growing season to come. Bumble bee appreciation takes place for a mere minute or two within a 14-hour day of vegetable harvesting. And the first frost of fall signals a major shift in my daily routine from planting and harvesting to tucking the farm in for winter. As much as anyone, I have to remind myself to slow down and appreciate the everyday miracles growing in my garden.
I am keenly aware that by selling my vegetables at farmers’ markets and through a Community Supported Agriculture program, I ask my customers to pay me for the luxury of fresh foods that require time and patience to prepare in a world that frequently values convenience above all else. In other words, I ask individuals to make a place in their schedule to celebrate the season’s offerings by cooking them with their own two hands when they could much more easily rip open a box of prepared food, eat, and move on to the next item on the agenda. I know how hard it is to consistently choose the first option, especially in the height of summer when it’s a challenge to gather your family in the same room at the same time – let alone cook and eat a meal with them. I also know the rewards of making that choice are enormous.
We all know that celebrating seasonal food, whether that food comes from your own garden, the farmers’ market, or your CSA share, rewards you with wonderful family memories, greater personal health, greater environmental and economic balance in your community, and much, much tastier meals. But, as a grower, I can’t ask my community to choose that path unless I take the time to do it myself. So, no matter the length of my to-do list, I make sure to create a dish to celebrate the first harvest of every vegetable in my field each season. With over 50 different vegetables growing, that’s a lot of celebrating, so I keep it simple. And I recommend that my customers do the same. The following are recipes I’ve created to celebrate two favorite first harvests of the summer season: Zucchini and cherry tomatoes.
Make this as a side dish or light lunch when the first zucchinis appear in early summer. It’s also a flavorful way to use slightly larger zucchini that may have gotten away from you at harvest time. If you make this dish later in the season, try fresh tomato slices in place of the sauce.
serves 4 as a side dish
2 medium or 1 large zucchini
About 1/3 cup of tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
8 large basil leaves
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, preferably water packed, thickly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Slice the zucchini into half-inch slices. Slice small zucchini lengthwise. Larger fruits should be sliced into rounds. Arrange the slices in a single layer in a non-metal baking dish. Spoon tomato sauce evenly over the zucchini slices. Sprinkle a pinch of oregano over each slice, reserving some for garnish if desired. Slice basil leaves into 1/4 ribbons and divide them among the zucchini slices. Cover the zucchini with overlapping slices of mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the zucchini is just barely tender. If desired, sprinkle with remaining oregano. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Tangy Cherry Tomato Salad
This is a colorful mix of mid-summer’s best, with just enough sweet and tangy dressing to highlight the flavors of the vegetables without overpowering them. It’s so easy that once you’ve chopped all of the ingredients you’re done cooking!
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small sweet onion, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium salad cucumber, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
Combine the chopped tomatoes, onion, zucchini, and cucumber in a non-reactive bowl. Stir together the vinegar, salt, and sugar or honey. Make sure these ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing. Let stand, refrigerated, for 15 minutes to one day. Stir immediately before serving.
Andrea Corpolongo Smith runs a 60-member CSA in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her husband and young daughter. She loves the life she has built, but frequently has to remind herself to take the time to enjoy it! She blogs about her farm, mostly for the benefit of her CSA members, at Wintergreen Farm.
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.