These are our salad days.
Billowy red leaf, upright sheaves of Romaine, tender baby lettuces, tart sorrel with its lovely red edges, verdant deep green spinach, peppery arugula that takes off like its English name, rocket. They, like my herbs, loved our cool, rainy May and are determined to fill our bowls and bellies before heat makes them bolt into bitterness.
At the same time, curly kale and rainbow Swiss chard are demanding to be picked and eaten. Can’t you wait, I ask them, but they answer eat me, eat me!
Less patient still — and always welcome — are radishes, peeking out of the chocolate of our well-composed soil beneath the shade of towering leaves to remind me that their time is short. Red globe and French breakfast, they are brilliant in their color contrast, red on white, crisp to the teeth and sharp to tongue and palate.
The earth they leave behind awaits okra, red okra I hope, for last year’s from Betty Knapp’s Loch Less Farm nursery was as delicious and bountiful as it was beautiful, coming along at the time of tomatoes, to create and satisfy our craving for a sauté of those two vegetables with shrimp and rice.
Among onions, we’re harvesting chives, scallions and shallots now and garlic soon, for its three-foot-high stalks are budding and bending in curlicues.
Underground, potatoes are forming, their rising leaves tell us. Tomatoes and peppers, too, are promises to be kept.
If only our rhubarb grew as lush as our horseradish.
Husband Bill Lambrecht’s birth place in McLean County, Illinois, is blessed with soil that ranks at the top of all Earth has to offer. Like that black gold, his Illinois farm roots are deep. Under Bay Gardener Dr. Frank Gouin’s tutelage, he is reviving them, and we are eating well. He does all that in feet rather than acres, proving — along with his lettuce — that a little can go a long way.
Still, it could have been I, before these salad days, hungrily raiding Chesapeake’s Bounty shelves as first-time Bay Weekly writer BJ Poss describes in this week’s feature, Living Up to a 100 Percent Local Commitment.
I’ve been a regular customer since proprietor William Kreamer opened a second Chesapeake’s Bounty in North Beach, having been long prepped by the bountiful tales of more southerly Calvert countians used to shopping at the original St. Leonard location. Food that shares your space on earth is an easy taste to acquire.
That’s just what’s happened to us over the years we’ve been making Bay Weekly, years that coincide with the ripening of the local food movement in Chesapeake Country. Since 1993, we’ve chronicled farmers and farmways, watermen and waterways. At the same time, we’ve followed our words with our custom. We’ve been members of Community Supported Agriculture; shoppers at farm stands and farmers markets; questers for fresh asparagus, strawberries, apples, eggs and honey; buyers of locally raised meat and Bay seafood.
(The shrimp that go with that okra are local to Gulf rather than Chesapeake waters — but they’re not farm-raised in China or Vietnam. When husband Lambrecht is not tending our garden, he’s writing investigative stories that explain why we don’t buy fish from those sources, or honey either.)
At the same time, we’ve revived our grandmothers’ old traditions of putting food up.
For lagging moderns like us, the missing link was a market to carry us over winter, to expand our local choices and to consolidate it all in one place, one trip. Chesapeake’s Bounty fills the gap.
Among my consequent expansions: milk, butter and yogurt, as well as flour, table salt and cooking oil. (Alas, olives for olive oil don’t grow in the Chesapeake Watershed.)
If you don’t live far enough south in Anne Arundel County to make such bounty worthwhile, maybe you’ll be the one to fill another gap.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; firstname.lastname@example.org