I love all the seasons, all the months, but August holds a special place in my heart. Everyone crams that last little bit of summer into a few weeks before fall, before school, before football. There’s that last trip to the cabin, those last evenings on the lake, and trying your luck one last time at the old fishing hole.
But the magical part for me is how August blends all the scents of the season into one glorious treat for the senses. You know what I am talking about. The marigolds in the flowerbeds, the tomatoes and other garden vegetables, the field corn, hay drying in the fields and even some weeds lend their scents to create the smell of August. I especially like the mornings when I take my coffee on the deck and the morning dew has enhanced that wonderful aroma.
I am happy that Mother Nature has given us this gift, even if it means that everything in the garden is ripe at once … again. Every year I try to outwit her by planting different vegetables at different times. Every year I fail, she wins.
You can only can and freeze so much; friends and relatives can only relieve you of so much. So, what to do with all the excess short of seeing it go to waste? Always remember there are shelters and certain food banks that are more than willing to help. There are also a few recipes that are new twists on old favorites that will use a little of this and a little of that:
1. Keep a freezer bag in the freezer to add extra zucchini, summer squash, onions, okra, peas, beans, broccoli, cabbage and a host of other veggies to as you accumulate them. When the wind is howling outside, these bags can easily be the basis for soups and stews.
2. Do the same with tomatoes and later they can be made into sauces and salsa, of which you can never have too much.
3. Don’t forget those extra green onions that got too large; they can be stomped down and left until just before frost. Dig them, wash them off and let them dry before storing in a cool, dry place. I never bought an onion all last winter.
4. When garden bounty is in season, supper is always quick and simple. You could have stir fry every night and never have it taste the same. A little olive oil in a skillet with cubed zucchini, cabbage, onions and summer squash makes an excellent complement to any piece of meat you throw on the grill.
5. Slice a cucumber and a lemon and add to a pitcher of water with a couple drops of peppermint oil for a refreshing drink that soothes the stomach too.
6. Remember the old summer standby of sliced cucumbers and onions with salt, pepper, vinegar and water? We used to call them bellyaches because that’s what you usually got after eating them. Last year some friends introduced a little twist to the old standby. Slice the cucumbers and onions as usual, add salt and pepper. Then mix equal amounts of water, vinegar and sugar, and pour over. The result is a sweeter, kinder-to-your-tummy version.
7. Here’s a similar salad but with a different twist.
4 or 5 Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
8. Remember how cabbage is so good for you? Try a cabbage casserole.
1 medium head of cabbage
1 can cream of celery soup
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Velveeta or American cheese
1 cup buttered bread crumbs or use crackers
Chop cabbage coarse and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes; drain and place in casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray.
Heat soup, milk and cheese together and pour over cabbage. Top with crumbs. Bake 375 F for 30 minutes.
There are all kinds of creative ways to use the bounty of summer. Maybe someday Mother Nature will relent and let each veggie have its time and not everything ripen at once. Until then, enjoy the menagerie and combine the tastes and scents of August into your own culinary creations.