I'm standing at my buddy's booth at the Farmer's Market.
A seasoned woman with sparkly eyes is examining his French
filet beans with the air of someone who has just found
something very special. She buys all his beans, intending
to freeze them for year-round cuisine. You plant zee
right seeds, she says, with a thick French accent.
Here we are at the apex of food season, this blissful
moment of inertia on the cusp of Indian summer, when
the agricultural bounty is more diverse than ever, summertime
crops overlapping with the fall crops. And remember that
garden you planted in May, tended in June and abandoned
in July? It's still alive with surprises you forgot all
Meanwhile, at one stand, a few of their more than 20
apple varieties are ready, and the people are clamoring.
We are people of the apple, and we know what to do with
them. Soon it will be time for cider, pie, and pork chops
with apple sauce.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the market, The Man Who
Whispers to Grizzly Bears is sitting with his needle
and thread, stringing purple bachelor buttons and orange
marigolds into leis, or flower necklaces. Here in the
mountains, where flower season whizzes by like oncoming
traffic and since flowers can't be canned or frozen the
lei is the epitome of carpe diem. Right here, right now.
Strike while the iron is hot. Get leied.
Yes, now is the time to pluck zee nectar from the fleeting
blossom of summer, before the season whips into the transition
of autumn and we all know where autumn leads 85 So,
as Janis Joplin advised, get it while you can! Pluck
zee nectar and relish its divine fragrance; pluck zee
nectar and stash it away for the months ahead, when you'll
need a splash of summer against the advancing gray. Whatever
your personal favorite is85 Freeze grated zucchini for
baking; freeze huckleberries; can tomato sauce.
When you freeze green things, like beans, kale, broccoli
and chard, don't forget to blanch them first, in small
batches, in boiling water. After you blanch, dunk the
greens in cold water, drain and freeze in airtight plastic
bags. The rule of thumb is to blanch just long enough
to turn them neon, but don't take my word for it. Every
home preservationist needs a reference book with specific
guidelines for each type of food. I myself use Stocking
Up , from Rodale Press.
Now is an especially good time to stock up on basil,
which is bolting as we speak and will wilt at even the
rumor of frost. Here is my new favorite way to store
basil, which I learned from a book called Keeping Food
Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes .
It's called pistou , and it's a version of
the ultra-popular pesto. But pistou is simpler than pesto
and less hassle to make. And what's nice about it is
that six months from now, when you want pesto, all you
have to do is take your pistou, add some pine nuts and
cheese, and maybe some more garlic 85 and presto! It's
And if you don't want pesto, but you do want to spice
up that coconut and turmeric curry, a spoonful of pistou
allows you to stay in Southeast Asia, rather than yanking
your dish to Italy like pesto would.
With a large mortar and pestle, or in a food processor,
grind up basil leaves, adding a pinch of salt. Mix in
some really good olive oil and spoon the mixture into
small jars, making sure that everything is covered by
a thick layer of oil. Put lids on the jars and store
in a cool place. According to the book, basil can store
for a year like this.
Unfortunately, most home economists and county extension
agents now agree that the oxygen-free environment created
by the olive oil creates growth conditions perfect for Clostridium
botulinum , aka botulism.
So, although they have been doing it this way in the
Old Country for hundreds of years, you might want to
freeze your pistou instead. Some people freeze it in
ice cube trays, and then transfer the frozen portion-sized
nuggets to plastic bags for long-term storage. If you
go the freezing route, then you don't need a thick layer
of oil on top.
Some people like to add garlic to their pistou. I add
maybe just a tad. Honest. I think it makes more sense
to add the garlic fresh, down the road when I'm using
Pesto, pistou, French filet beans...You've been warned.
Now go, pluck zee nectar, and freeze and can it while