This time of year, the Farmstand is a rainbow of fresh and delicious produce. It can feel overwhelming to make a shopping list when you're faced with so many tantalizing choices.
I don't bother, which means inspiration can run wild when we get in the first harvest of a tantalizing new crop or a particularly good deal on height-of-the-season items. It also means my fridge gets overcrowded on a pretty regular basis, but that's what preserving is for! My lack of lists and overbuying now pays off in the winter when I have a freezer and pantry full of local goodies.
Of course, not everyone suffers from my affliction-but when we have so many options available, it can be fun (and meaningful) to deviate a little from your weekly meal plan. Whether you're hitting the Farmstand on your lunch hour or strolling through your neighborhood farmers' market, heed the words of Kasha Bialas, a small farmer in upstate New York, writing on chef Michael Ruhlman's blog:
"Eat what is available from local producers. Don't head to the farmers' market with a set shopping list. Rather, adjust your menus to reflect the bounty of the season and you will be rewarded with fresher, more flavorful and nutritious meals and snacks."
Bialas has wise words (mostly encouraging, some gently admonishing) for consumers who want to help and support small farmers-go read the whole thing. I'm taking this opportunity to highlight some of the veggies that get overlooked this time of year, when sexy tomatoes and peaches get all the love from shoppers. So when you're grabbing the last of the blueberries, the first Shiro plums or donut peaches, or a sugar baby watermelon for your barbecue, add in a few of these overlooked seasonal stars, too.
EGGPLANT. People look forward to eggplant in early summer, but not necessarily for the purpose of buying some once it shows up. Their spongy flesh is an excellent canvas for whichever flavors you'd like to introduce. This week, we're expecting cute little baby eggplants from Heritage Farm and magenta-and-white-striped fairytale eggplants (aka zebra or graffiti) from Jah's Organic Farm. Stuff those baby jawns or try something new -- beer batter and fry slices of fairytales and dip them in lemon yogurt sauce. It's gastropub cuisine in your own kitchen!
PEPPERS: The jumbo organic red bells we have coming in from Marolda Farm aren't a tough sell, but their smaller, hotter cousins seem to be. I understand if you're spice-averse, but it's not ghost pepper season quite yet: we're talking banana peppers (you know, the ones on your hoagie), Hungarian hot wax peps, and friendly jalapenos from the Amish farmers at the Oasis at Bird-in-Hand cooperative. Sure, you only need a few to flavor a mildly spicy dish -- but isn't it time you made a big batch of tomatillo salsa (we have tomatillos, too!)? Think ahead to fall and winter -- what if you made an easy and delicious fermented hot sauce to give away as gifts? With your own blend of local, organic peppers? I hear banana/Hungarian hot wax/jala is an awesome combination.
GREENS. Hardy, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower can't always survive the summer heat, but their friends kale and cabbage can! Don't neglect your greens just because reds, yellows, purples, and blues are in season. Serve up this savoy cabbage slaw with tacos, make a batch of sauerkraut (in this weather, it'll be ready in no time), or toss a bunch of Tuscan or green kale onto the grill (or into your fancy blender if you have one of those). Be thankful that you can grab a bunch any time you want -- didn't you know there's a global kale shortage going on?