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July’s produce log has proved a little challenging to get finished. I could blame it on the fact that I’m too busy eating but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

If this is your first visit, you’re seeing a month-by-month log of fresh produce, with a tally to see how my local versus non-local dollars compare. See April Produce Log for an introduction to the project. Here are May and June. You can download each one as a PDF. Here is July. Each month includes recipe ideas, links and PDFs to download.

Scroll down for more on July’s produce, reflections on eating in summer and recipe ideas.

It’s about this time in August that I want to push the pause button. I have yet to consume vast quantities of artichokes and because of that I’m not ready to see cantaloupe or even corn. Oregon’s artichokes are about a month late due to less-than-optimal weather.

This feeling of wanting to slow the tide of earthly delights is really just silly anxiety, stemming from a desire to savor as much and as deeply as possible. No one is stopping me, of course. To savor can imply taking time to create a spectacular dish. But savoring can just as easily mean standing at the kitchen counter eating a peach and licking the juice that drips down your arm.

I wrote about the comforts of seasonal eating and how limiting to what’s in season simplifies and allows you to enjoy eating on a different level. The desire to freeze the moment is that the overabundance from the garden and the sheer variety from the market begs for more time to enjoy it. There are only so many opportunities to cook for friends, which is the best way to celebrate all this bounty. In the absence of guests, I bang on my neighbor’s window with a big zucchini, hand a big bunch of basil to the teenager walking down the sidewalk, or give strawberries to the guy across the street.

Freezing the moment is what seasonal eating does, for better or worse. You’re up to your eyeballs in basil but you have to enjoy every leaf. For soon it won’t be there (except in frozen form, which is pretty darn good).

What’s Cooking?

Berries. Three visits to a local farm yielded 11 pounds of berries (a couple more visits needed), most of which go in the freezer. But not before making blueberry sorbetto topped with raspberries, with a little pinot noir thrown in for fun. And also not before making berry crisp, with marionberries and peaches. For those who don’t like to bake, this is a crowd pleaser and idiot proof (unless you burn it under the broiler). Make your own raspberry vinegar by tossing a handful of raspberries in some champagne or white wine vinegar in a mason jar and let sit in the sun. Strain out the berries once the vinegar has turned nice and red.

Carrots & Zucchini. I bought a large bunch of carrots and then pulled more from the garden, which is too many if you don’t love carrots. So I experimented with pickled carrots (refrigerator style) to make use of them. I loosely followed this recipe but I think I should have cooked the carrots longer. Together with my pickled zucchini (which I modified to make savory with no sugar, added garlic, dill, onions and coriander seed), I have ready snacks to put out when guests come over. See June’s log for other zucchini recipes.

Arugula. It’s growing like gangbusters this year which means eating a salad a day, sometimes two. Because of arugula’s peppery flavor, the sweetness of a raspberry vinegar dressing compliments the kick. When you have too many greens you have no choice but to start eating breakfast salad. There’s at least one other person out there who wants savory for breakfast. Use any lettuce or vegetables you like. Pictured is my take on it with arugula, shredded carrots and sunflower seeds, along with the soft-boiled eggs.

Beans. Last year, my beans died a horrible death. This year, I can’t keep up. I’m growing the Italian romano beans—a long, flat, wide bean with a nutty, sweet flavor that almost double in size overnight. My father used to make stewed beans that we had with polenta—the polenta being a poor man’s substitute for meat in Italy. I loved this dish; there was something wonderful about how the beans almost fell apart. I now know it’s called fagiolini in umido. Like many Italian recipes there are no hard and fast rules, unless it’s the rules of the person whose recipe you’re using. I don’t blanch my beans first and I also add torn fresh basil and shaved parmigiano at the end.

Artichokes. Sorely missing from this month’s log, a bag of baby artichokes are sitting in the fridge. I couldn’t want till next month to encourage trying this recipe. La vignarola is a Roman spring vegetable stew. Because Oregon’s artichokes are late, one can enjoy a spring dish in summer. The Italians are always improvising with what’s available. The catch here is that fava beans are called for and the planets didn’t align properly for the two vegetables to co-occur. The overabundant beans (see above) will have to be the understudy for favas.

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Phew. A long post but there’s a lot to say. If you use one of these recipes, let me know how it goes. If you have a favorite recipe using one of these fruits or vegetables, please comment!

One must embrace irony. There is a lot of it in life, after all. Consider the garden if you will. In an effort to control my food source, I found a place to live where I could (in theory) enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor by having a garden.

Instead, it is a daily practice of surrender to a host of elements out of my control. My plants are gracious hosts to a wide variety of critters from nearly invisible to purring.

No book by the Dalai Lama or Eckhart Tolle will teach an essential lesson in letting go more than having a garden. Tending a garden requires relinquishing the foolish notion that you will reap a product at the end. Each morning, coffee in hand, I make my rounds to the plants like a nurse visiting her ICU patients, inspecting limbs, peering at their wounds, unleashing a few expletives (me, not the nurse most likely).

As a woman said to her husband who complained of flea beetles, “There’s a good way to get rid of the pests. Go to the grocery store and buy eggplant.”

Where’s the fun if you can’t suffer a little? Who learns anything if you can’t experience your hard work wither away one tiny bitefull at a time? The truly strong among us are strong, not for our victories but, for our losses. The truly wise among us are wise, not for the tomato we ate at the end but, for the garden path we walked.

Though a tomato would be nice.

As I stared at my growing stack of books yesterday, the ones full of important ideas I should stuff into my brain, I was distracted by my seedlings. I planted seeds just five days earlier and all were sprouting. Some were meant to go directly into the ground but, just for kicks, I stuck a few beans and corn kernels in the soil plugs, in addition to a variety of herbs and tomatoes. Ever since I started this activity a few years ago, the seemingly endless grey, rainy season in the Northwest has been more bearable.

It’s often said that the best things in life are free, or at least don’t cost that much. This can’t be more true for sprouting seeds indoors. It’s cheap entertainment. Aside from a few bucks for seeds and seedling mix, all you need are some containers and a sunny window. Lifting up the plastic dome each morning is like peering into a living jewelbox. Got bored kids or kids glued to their electronic devices? If I hadn’t had anything else to do yesterday, I would have been happy to stare at my Italian romano beans growing. Below is what happened over five hours.

Today the sprout is four-and-a-half inches tall. I have corn growing right next to it. Corn! I couldn’t have imagined corn growing in my suburban Maryland neighborhood where I grew up. It makes me wonder what other unquestioned, limiting ideas I have.

Though I get immense pleasure watching the simple, but profound, life span of a minescule seed turn into large, red tomato, I can’t help but wonder if that giddiness is a sign of too much of a lack of it in other corners of our lives. Most of us know the delight we get from the simple and the unexpected. So why is it that we continue to plan for the complicated?