It’s mid-summer here in Southern Ontario, although you’d be hard pressed to tell. The weather has been unstable at best and downright cold at its worst. We’ve hardly had any days over 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) and the temperature has generally topped out between 20 and 23 degrees Celsius. It’s usually pretty hot and humid in July so this is very unusual but hopefully the weather will improve as we move into August – summer’s days are numbered!
Unfortunately, a cool and damp summer takes its toll on the produce. Tomatoes, corn, grapes and peaches are at their best when the weather is hot and dry and other fruits and vegetables are also behind schedule. The strawberries I’ve had this year have been very hit and miss – I’ll get a sweet batch in one box only to find the next one sour and tasteless. The best advice I can offer is to ask vendors at the market if you can taste the produce before buying so you can avoid disappointment (unfortunately, this often isn’t possible at the supermarket).
Here are some highlights of this week’s market visit:
The very last asparagus of the season was still available. We won’t have local asparagus again until next May so enjoy it while you can! I think my husband will be kind of relieved that we won’t be eating it for a while – we definitely get our fill during the brief season. Visit the Asparagus archives for lots of ideas on how to use this delicious vegetable.
Strawberries and Rhubarb
There are still local strawberries at the markets but their quality can vary. The ones I got this week were actually better than last week’s tasteless berries. A handful of rhubarb was still available but it was probably the last week for it. It’s your last chance this season to enjoy a sweet-and-tart strawberry-rhubarb cocktail.
Local green and yellow zucchini were in abundance but some of them were almost past their peak as far as size is concerned. Smaller zucchini tend to be sweeter and less watery – they can get seedy and wet once they get too big. Miniature summer squash were also available. For a great recipe using zucchini, check out Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting.
The first apricots are showing up at the markets although the ones I picked up this week were quite sour. I find apricots are usually at their best when cooked or dried, as opposed to eating them raw out of hand. Check out a quick and delicious recipe for Apricot Jam that makes a great addition to the breakfast table.
Ontario cherries are at their peak right now but the quality has been mixed this season. Both sweet and sour cherries are at the markets. For a delicious way to use them, see my recipe for Cherry Almond Bread.
A few vendors were advertising ‘Ontario Field Tomatoes’ but they aren’t in their peak season quite yet. Within a couple of weeks we should be seeing more local tomatoes. However, I did buy some locally grown grape tomatoes that didn’t look so great but were sweet and delicious. You can’t always judge a tomato by its skin! Why not make a Caprese Salad with some sweet, local grape or cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil?
The very first (very early) Ontario corn was on sale this week but it was a little disappointing. I should have known better – corn doesn’t typically reach its peak here until August but I love it so much, I couldn’t resist! I will wait a couple of weeks or so to try it again. Soon it will be cheap and plentiful.
I have a minor addiction to arugula (also known as rocket, roquette or rucola) and usually buy the greenhouse grown stuff through the year. However, Ontario grown arugula was at the market the other day and it was much more flavourful than the packaged kind. It was peppery and pungent and really made my salad sing. For simple vinaigrette ideas to dress an arugula salad, see my primer on Vinaigrettes. Arugula is also great on sandwiches or on top of a pizza – it adds a nice peppery bite.
I was very pleased to finally find locally grown garlic at the market. Most of what’s in the grocery stores through the year is grown in China and tends to dry out and loses its flavour quickly. The Ontario garlic I bought was very fresh and sweet. To learn more about garlic, see my primer ‘Garlic 101’.
Cucumbers and Dill
Smart farmers are selling miniature cukes next to big batches of dill so it’s one-stop-shopping for pickle makers. However, cucumber and dill are also great in other dishes, such as Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad and Smoked Salmon Spread (use the cucumber slices to scoop the dip for a lower carb treat).
Until next week…