Our local farmer's markets are just full of wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits this time of year. Yesterday, I visited a small farm outlet that sells truly good things--grass fed, organic, humanely raised milk, eggs, cheeses, beef, chicken, pork, and lamb--as well as seasonal organic vegetables and local honey. I wanted to buy everything I saw! There were baskets full of heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, garlic, watermelons, figs, and I'm sure lots of things I've forgotten.
I ended up buying a large bag of tomatoes. Some were unidentified medium reds, but I also scored several Cherokee Purples and Green Zebras. I also bought garlic, green peppers, and a bag of shade grown, organic coffee that the farmers sell in cooperation with a company called Larry's Beans out of Raleigh, NC. The variety of coffee I chose is called "3 Moon Peru" and it's delicious (I'm having a cup as I type this) with a medium-bodied, smooth, mellow flavor.
After I got home last night, I made a marinade/rub of crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, marjoram, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper and coated some chicken breasts and boneless pork chops with it. Then I fired up some natural mesquite hardwood on the grill, and cooked enough meat for the next several nights. To accompany the meats, I made saffron rice, grilled asparagus (with butter, lemon, and sea salt), and sliced fresh tomatoes . It was so good! I love summer foods!
I was sorely tempted to buy some figs for dessert, but I have a kind neighbor with a giant tree that's full of figs, and he's promised me a bucketful. A small container (maybe a pint's worth) at the market was selling for $6, which I thought was just too expensive when I can have all I want for free. I love figs! One day, when we have a home of our own, I plan to have several trees, since they have nice foliage as well as luscious summer fruit. My maternal grandparents had several fruit trees and a large garden in their backyard, and one day I hope to have the same. They had peach, plum, pear and fig trees, and when I was very small they had a couple of pomegranate trees as well (I don't remember them past my early childhood...possibly they died, as did an apple tree by the back door).
I credit those same grandparents with my love of almost all fresh vegetables, including fall greens like collards, turnips, and mustard greens. My grandfather was born into a sharecropper's family and had grown up in a time when poor people had to grow a lot of the food they needed to survive. By the time I came along (60 years later) he lived in town and worked in a factory, but a large portion of his free time was spent maintaining a large garden, and everyone in our family had chest freezers to put away the bounty of produce he grew each year. By the time I was in grade school, he had retired, so I spent summers with him and often had to help him work in his garden. It was hot, sweaty, tiring work, but I remember how proud I was the year we planted his always-huge field of butter beans and field peas, just the two of us. I overheard him bragging to a neighbor, "Me and that youngun' there planted all them beans ourselves this year!" Of course, when "all them beans" grew and were ready to be picked, all of the family (and a neighbor or two) had to help pick, and then shell them. Everyone ended up with plenty of beans to last through the winter for their efforts--he grew bushels! That was in addition to all the other things he planted--tomatoes and squash, okra and cucumbers, corn and fiery cayenne peppers. Then, in the fall, his entire garden plot was given over to greens which could last through most of the winter. He wasn't playing around about feeding his family! And although his grand kids were like free slave labor (he was raised with that mindset, after all!) we learned to appreciate fresh vegetables and homemade meals made with quality ingredients. There was none of this modern phenomenon of kids living on chicken nuggets and other fast food travesties. People my age complain how their kids won't eat anything besides nuggets, mac and cheese, and burgers....I say it's their own fault! When I was growing up, you ate what the rest of the family ate, period. There were home cooked meals every day, and if you didn't like the food served, it was no big deal...you could just go hungry! I don't remember me or my cousins ever being "picky eaters" thanks to the fact that kids just simply didn't dictate what they got to have for meals. And of course, the adults in our family actually cooked real food almost every single day (while working full time, I might add) so we never got exposed to so much fast food as we were growing up. Going out for a burger and fries, or a sit down restaurant meal, was a special occasion, not a regular "time saving" occurrence!
I can only shake my head at people feeding their families so much junk. Even though my little family consists of only my husband and me, we eat real food, and although it takes a bit more time to shop for, cook, and clean up after homemade meals, I consider it an act of love to provide good food for us. Especially in the summer, when the local farmers are producing such a bounty of good things!!