Monday, July 25, 2011

Grandma's Garden

You might have noticed a theme to my July posts. Every one has something to do with summer gardens. You might think that I myself have cultivated a garden. I wish. However, I grew up with a great-grandmother and a mother with amazingly green thumbs.

Grandma Isabella stars in many of my garden memories. The back yard in Caln featured a grape arbor, vegetable garden, apple, peach and pear trees, and a chicken coop. Even though I was only five when she died, I can still picture her bent over with her hoe, weeding between the rows of her tomato and pepper plants. I can see her shaking out her apron, feeding table scraps to her chickens. I can still taste the warm egg she fed me straight from the shell (we didn't worry about salmonella when there were only a couple of chickens in the yard). We all looked forward to the fourth of July, the day she said we could pick the first tomatoes off the vine and eat them still warm from the summer sun. In August, she led us in preserving the garden bounty for the long winter ahead, and the pantry shelves heaved with jars of tomato sauce, green beans, and peaches.

Grandma had very little formal education, but she knew gardens. She planted peas on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, and we gobbled raw peas by the pound. She used fish bones as a natural fertilizer in the garden. She planted marigolds around the border to keep out pests. She moved the zucchini around the garden so squash borers never had a chance to establish. I only wish I could remember more of her garden lore. She believed that "stolen" plants performed better than gifted ones, so she would use her sharp nails to nip clippings when her friends weren't looking. Those snippets grew into beautiful plantings. Her Christmas cactus is still producing beautiful blooms in December, and while the clippings I stole from my own grandmother's Christmas cactus (with her blessing) bloom in February rather than December, they are further proof of her stolen-plant theory.

As the hot summer days gradually grow shorter, I hope that you take time to sit on a swing on a screened porch, sip a tall glass of iced tea, and remember the relatives with green thumbs and the gardens of years ago.

Breakfast Parfait

Summer fruit begs to come home with me. Quarts of blueberries, peaches, plums, raspberries, blackberries. Whole melons, cantaloupe or honeydew or water. Pounds of cherries, red and yellow. And, like big-eyed puppies, they follow me home. The problem? There are only two adults to eat this harvest. It's almost impossible for Gary and me to consume the quantity of irresistible sweet produce I buy, unless it's an integral part of our breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

My favorite sumer breakfast is a huge bowl of fresh fruit topped with Greek yogurt, a squirt of agave nectar, and a sprinkle of good granola. This week, local blueberries and Saturn peaches are featured in my breakfast bowl. A carton of baby banana Greek yogurt adds another layer of flavor. The best part about this breakfast is that I don't get hungry again for hours.

You, too, can enjoy an easy, delicious, healthful breakfast. Visit a good produce stand. Let yourself be seduced by the smells and textures and flavors. When you get your haul home, keep the peaches and plums at room temperature to preserve their flavors and textures. And remember that, despite its name, a breakfast parfait is good any time of day.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


It's summertime, and the tomatoes from the East Goshen Farmers Market this afternoon were at their prime. We've had salad caprese every other night for the past two weeks, and while I can't say I'm tired of perfectly ripe tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with artisan olive oil from A Taste of Olive, I needed a change. What better way to savor summer than a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich? Add a couple of ears of fresh corn as a side. YUM!

Friday, July 15, 2011

If you are in East Goshen on Thursday afternoon between 3 and 7, check out the new farmers market. In addition to fresh produce, eggs and locally-grown meat and poultry, you can find wonderful chocolates (packaged with ice to get them safely home even on the hottest of summer afternoons), cheeses, and popsicles.