Bea Westerberg column: Summer bounty really taking off
With Rivertown Days ending this past weekend and the Old Log Cabin event coming up next weekend, I think we can say it's true the summer is racing by at a rapid rate of speed. That means August will be here soon, and then September.
I really understand the feeling some of the back-to-school kids are experiencing. My positive side would be that rug hooking camp will be coming up in September in Duluth/Proctor. I hope they have enough supplies for the lavender martinis. Happy hour is well attended.
Back to the present day, we can be thankful the local gardens are producing like crazy and giving us all kinds of wonderful goodies. The corn is in at the Hastings Farm Market and at least two vendors have a supply of the golden bounty.
Check the Hastings Farm Market Facebook page to see some interesting alternatives to using salt and butter on your corn. Remember to buy just what you can use in a short time and leave the husks on until just before you cook the corn. The husk protects the moisture level in the corn.
The sugars start turning to starches as soon as the corn is removed from the stalk so you want to buy as fresh as possible. I have never tried the fresh corn from the grocery store but it must sell otherwise they would not have it but some of it looks long removed from the stalks.
The fresh local tomatoes are coming in so be sure to have enough bacon and lettuce on hand to make BLTs. I like to add a few leaves of fresh basil along with the lettuce for the sandwich.
At our house we always have the mayo issue so that has to be worked out. Husband Larry is not among big fans of that or basil.
The first BLT of the season is so special and if it drips on you and your plate, that it makes it so more real! That's part of the reason those multi-colored tops are the thing to wear when eating. You could color coordinate by being sure to wear something with a red base for tomato eating. The tomato seeds could be prints on the fabric.
The data keeps coming in on the fact that you should not refrigerate your tomatoes. Daughter Nissa would be able to explain the reasons why the cold temps break down the cell structure in the tomato, but it might take a lot of time and pictures. Enjoy them fresh and at room temperature and skip the class.
In a pickle
OK, now I will tell you that you can put and keep a cucumber for up to a week in your refrigerator! The cucumber can be called a formed vessel of 98 percent water with lots of good vitamins, etc., in its skin. It's perfectly refreshing with its high water content on a hot day, as well as being able to be used in recipes. It can also be used for health reasons such as sunburn and makes cute covers for your eye problems. No wonder some call it one of the best superfoods. Back in the day when I was gardening in the all-out-crazy way, I grew a special cucumber that had a rough brown skin and had almost a 100 percent water content. These were said to be the product that was sold in Middle East markets to refresh in the hot, dry heat. An all in one beverage with an edible cup, no waste, no mess!
There are many varieties of cucumbers and you decide the perfect size for what you wish to do with them. They can be used from the tiny baby cukes which must be only hours old from the blossom to the big boys that could be used for clubs. Sometimes it will take a large cucumber patch to grow enough of the kind you need, especially the tiny and small cucumbers.
If you dream of making 50 pints of the babies it might be best to find a sainted grower who will stand guard and pick these gems several times a day from long rows of plants. Be prepared to tap into your piggy bank as this is hard, backbreaking work and the grower needs some reward for doing it.
Another important thing is to be sure you pick or purchase plump, firm cucumbers. If they are wrinkly and soft, they're probably getting dried out. Note that there are some varieties that do have deep grooves in them and are supposed to be that way.
Most varieties have a noticeable amount of seed structure which should be holding together.
The English cuke is specially grown to have next to no seed structure and is especially fine for cucumber sandwiches and things like that. There are times when you want a big seed structure so you can hollow them out for boats or cups.
For fancy cups you can carve on the skin before cutting in slices. A regular fork used for eating makes a perfect tool for that job. You don't have to invest in the two craving sets as shown on TV.
Another fact: You do not grow pickles, you create/make pickles from cucumbers. Crazy English language!