By Ash Alder
Trumpet creeper is blooming. Queen Anne’s lace
adorns roadside ditches, and in the kitchen, tea is
steeping on the stovetop, sugar bowl on the table.
Summer is sensuous, flavorful, dreamy.
Dahlias and daisies. Fried squash blossoms.
and sunburns and roadside stands.
Load up on pickled okra. Homemade salsas and jams. Baskets of plump, juicy peaches.
You flash back to childhood.
How exciting it was to see that first-ever melon carried inside like a newborn, thick green skin cut open to reveal juicy bright pink fruit. Was it Fourth of July? That first piece was sliced like pie.
“This must be what they eat in heaven,” you said.
It is the chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented. – Mark Twain
The Summer Flower
Remember meeting that first giant? Being dazzled beyond words by its radiance and splendor, gasping as if you’d just entered a world alive with magic beans and singing harps and ornate birds with eggs of gold?
Or perhaps you met a field of them? Smiling sun gazers. Stilt-walkers among a carnival of phlox and zinnias and late summer bloomers.
Nothing says summer like a host of majestic sunflowers. As they follow our blazing sun across the wispy-clouded sky, these towering beauties remind us that we, too, become that which we give our attention.
Given optimal growing conditions (plenty of sun and space), the sunflower can grow up to 13 feet tall in as few as six months. And once summer and her birds have harvested the last of its seeds, the head can be used as a biodegradable scrubbing pad. Talk about good clean fun.
Gifts for Papa
Father’s Day falls on Sunday, June 16. I think of Papa’s old fishing hat, a gift from one of his children, then remember his hearty laugh. A few seeds of inspiration for the beloved father-figure in your life:
A new feather for the old cap
Homemade bread for ’mater sandwiches
Pickled okra — local and with a kick!
Seeds for the fall garden: lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, pumpkin
Get You a Ripe One
Cucumber salad, pickled melon, cantaloupe gazpacho — all well and good. But no summer picnic is complete without homegrown you-know-whats.
Guy Clark surely knew.
He knew what to pair them with, too.
Eat ’em with eggs, eat ’em with gravy
Eat ’em with beans, pinto or navy
Put ’em on the side, put ’em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle . . .
Big and Better Boys. Brandywines. German Johnsons. Early Girls.
All well and good.
And they taste even better than their names.
Don’t get me started on Cherokee Purples unless you’re going to slice one up.
Some Like it Hot
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the hottest days of summer coincide with the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, beginning July 3 and ending August 11.
Meantime, sit beneath the shade of a favorite tree.
Sink your teeth into a just-picked peach.
Lose yourself in a tangle of wild blackberries.
And as you watch the busy ants march along empty watermelon rinds and overripe berries, remember there is work to do.
Stake the vines.
Can or freeze excess harvest.
Prepare the soil for autumn plantings: Purple top turnips and Chinese cabbages; Ebenezer onions and cherry belle radishes; spider lilies and autumn crocus and greens, greens, greens.
Allow yourself to enjoy it.