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Midsummer

The eating is good and local

Plant a seed and it will grow. That’s the truth of midsummer, especially this wet midsummer when Earth up here in our northern hemisphere is cloaked in vegetation. You’ll remember it wasn’t like this six months ago; sticks and Earth were bare. Now it’s gangbusters.
    Corn grows rampant. Cucumbers and squash hang pendulous and beans in curtains on their vines. Canes break out with raspberries. Tomatoes swell and burst in the sun. Earth reverts to the Garden of Eden, where it’s all yours for the picking.
    If ever you’re going to eat local, now is the time.
    Corn grew so tall and thick it shaded the narrow lane I traveled on the way to the Bay Gardener’s Upakrik Farm in Deale, where Dr. Gouin is calling in friends and carrying baskets to the SCAN Food pantry to help eat his way out of abundance. His is a mighty garden.
    Even a little patch on the edge of shade like ours feeds the family generously if a bit monotonously. First came our salad days. Then the feast of radishes. Now cucumber salad is a nightly dish as we wait and hope for the tomatoes to go riot. No vampires will visit my home, where a year’s worth of garlic dries in braids I learned to tie from the Bay Gardener. I had parsley (until it went to seed, in its second year) and have basil and oregano enough to feed Fairhaven. My lemon balm would make tea for all Annapolis.
    If you planted a seed this spring, it grew.
    Multiply that bounty by all the gardens and farms in Chesapeake Country, gather it in dozens of farmers markets and roadside stands, and we’ve all got some eating to do. Because, as Dr. Gouin says, “over production of vegetables often occurs, and it is shameful to allow it to spoil.”
    In case you’re not doing your part, Maryland designates the coming week of high summer, July 18 through 26, as Buy Local Challenge Week. Your assignment, if you accept it, is to make a personal commitment, pledging (at www.buy-local-challenge.com) to eat at least one thing from a local farm every day of the Challenge Week.
    Where will you start?
    Simple and unsurpassed for the tomato eaters of Maryland is a perfect tomato sandwich: Thick slices of tomato on your choice of bread moistened by butter, mayo or olive oil, topped with salt, pepper and, if you go the olive oil route, basil. Make it meaty with crisp strips of bacon. Yes, locally raised meat is becoming standard at local farmers markets, if not farm stands.
    If you’re ready to step out, try the recipes in this week’s paper. Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan’s instructs us how to make two Korean dishes — pork bulgogyi and cucumber salad, both favorites among her family. Step out a bit further with avid home cook, artist and fermentation enthusiast Caiti Sullivan, who simplifies canning, pickling and fermentation with in-season recipes for Spiced Cherry Preserves, Bread and Butter Pickles, Canned Tomatoes with Italian Herbs and Sauerkraut.
    If you’re really into challenge, try the complex and delicious recipes created by local chefs from local ingredients from local farms for the Governor’s Annual Buy-Local Cookout. This year’s recipes include not only Hogan’s bulgogyi but also, to sweeten the menu, Firefly Farms Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce and Grilled Black Rock Orchard Peach Compote, by Doug Wetzel of Gertrude’s in Baltimore.
    Find Governor’s Buy Local Cookout cookbooks and recipes from 2009 to 2015 at mda.maryland.gov/Pages/Buy-Local-Cookout.aspx.
    It’s midsummer, and the eating is good and fresh. But the season is short. Stock your kitchen, fridge and pantry with local bounty. Make a habit of shopping farmers markets and roadside stands for the best local produce, brought to you freshly harvested by the farmers who grew the good things we love to eat.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com