Seasonal Eating: Making the Most of Summer Garden Surplus

Joan Gussow shares her take on seasonal eating and how you can make the most of serving and preserving your garden surplus food.

| June/July 2002

  • 192-062-01-summer-surplustab

  • 192-062-01-summer-surplus


  • 192-062-01-summer-surplustab
  • 192-062-01-summer-surplus

Make the most of your garden by seasonal eating and preserving your surplus food.

Home food: Celebrating the pleasures of local, seasonal eating.

A Wallace Stevens poem, called "Sunday Morning," gave me the phrase that perfectly captures how this season affects me. Midpoem, Stevens writes, "Shall she not find in comforts of the sun . . . pungent fruit and bright, green wings" and the "balm and beauty of the earth." More often than I like to admit, I find myself in June sitting in the sunny middle of my clover path idly uprooting grass plants — white clover being the intended crop here — not even pretending to myself that the task is urgent.

Around the solstice my journal is filled with self-congratulatory phrases like, "The garden is close to perfection," or — most recently — "This is peak time in the garden. Everything is planted and looks beautiful. Tomatoes are setting, peppers are growing, onions are bulbing, and there's not even that much to do." After the sometimes frantic spring work of pruning, digging, sowing and planting, these perfectly warm, early summer days seem blessedly becalmed. Comforts of the sun indeed.

And as dawn sweeps away dark with increasing haste each morning, heading toward the longest day of the year, the pleasures of the garden move forward to greet the sun. If gardening at first light is soul medicine, as I find it to be, then picking strawberries at 5:00 a.m. just past the middle of June serves both industry and spiritual growth. For the compulsives among us, getting such an early start on the day fills us with a sense of moral rectitude, though the real reward is the taste of dewy fruit and visions of strawberry shortcake next winter.

These are the days for inviting friends over — to help refine the garden for summer, of course, but mostly to help use up the contents of the freezer to make room for the new summer's bounty. My habits of preservation always do me in: How can I not, I ask myself in October, put up just one more batch of frozen basil pesto cubes, tomato sauce or green beans? Then June comes and I still have bagsful. One of my sons suggested years ago that if we timed it tight, we could end up never having fresh pesto.


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