Each New England season has its perks, but summer affords us the opportunity to savor fresh ingredients that never taste as rich as they do when properly in season. Heirloom tomatoes. Sweet-tart strawberries. Cooling watermelons. All are the stuff of my wintery daydreams when summer seems so impossibly far off that it’s unfair to even ponder.
This year, as the pandemic has my photography business in limbo, I vowed to make the most of the season.
I coax my children and dog outside as much as possible, not for any particular reason other than to be amid the breeze, sun, shade, dirt, sand, water, and birdsong. As each mood lightens, it’s better for us all.
As mentioned in a previous post, I am gardening again, and take in all the goings-on while weeding. The snake that lives around the hydrangea. The hummingbird who was as startled by me as I was it. The noisy house sparrow making a home in the dainty birdhouse my husband and eldest son built together. The gangly nest tucked beside our chimney cradling a blackbird fledgling for all but an instant. My youngest son boasting dirt-worn nails from “helping” me.
Having never done so before, I also made a point to visit a pick-your-own farm for strawberries.
The sun-drenched field smelled intoxicatingly sweet. Berries in all stages of ripening were hidden beneath a plush layer of leaves.
Although many had clearly been feasted upon, those ready for picking were ripe to their tippy tops. With each perfectly imperfect find, our satisfaction and enthusiasm grew.
The berries endured a few rounds of quick rinsing so as to remove dirt and debris. We enjoyed them atop dense spongecake and puffs of whipped cream. Each berry seemed to taste of sunshine. That fresh flavor instantly brought me back to my Granny’s strawberry patch in Northern California. When I’d visit, we’d pick strawberries together, then she’d rinse and slice the lot, and add a sprinkle of sugar for good measure. It truly is food that makes memories stick in mind for me.
The rest were hulled, halved or quartered, and placed on crumpled parchment paper laid upon an old pizza pan that is the perfect shape and size for an overnight rest in our freezer.
The next day I plucked and placed them into a freezer bag for safekeeping and enjoyment when this season is all but a memory and we need a taste to bring us back.