WRITTEN BY MADISON LISLE
August is a beautiful month that feels like the beginning of the end. With summer drawing to a close and autumn slowly creeping in (pumpkin-scented candles have already hit the shelves, as if we wouldn’t notice), it’s time to take advantage of the last of the summer fruits and feast on pears, cucumbers, and plums. Seasonal produce is just better. As much as I like a tropical guava in the middle of winter, there is nothing like seasonal pumpkin soup when golden leaves cover the ground outside.
I know it’s hard — I often crave watermelon in the middle of winter — but I’m never really satisfied with the winter watermelon imported from thousands of miles away. It just doesn’t taste as good as the winter-happy oranges and squashes.
This What’s in Season column is a guide to finding and picking the best seasonal produce in your local area (within about 100 miles) and creating meals that use those fruits and vegetables at their peak.
When grown locally and bought in their prime seasons, produce that at other times of the year seem heavy, flavorless, hard, or underripe are bursting with flavor and readily available, and often less expensive because of their availability. Aiming to buy and eat seasonal produce is better for your body, the environment, and, let’s be honest, your taste buds. So dig in to your local farmers’ market and keep an eye on seasonal produce to make the best meals possible.
Best of August:
Stillwater Orchard Pears (Courtland) organic Delta Bartletts and stark crimson
Del Rio Botanical (West Sacramento) mixed cucumber, Armenian cucumber, lemon cucumber, baby mixed squash, teenage mixed squash, squash blossoms, avocado leaves, salad mix with petals and herbs
Di Napoli (Los Gatos) local tomatoes and other tomato-based products, such as San Marzano Style Plum Tomatoes, Tomato Paste and Marinara Sauce
R. Kelly farms (Sacramento) mixed, savor, ambrosia, crème de la crème, twice as nice, and San Juan Canary melons
Riverdog Farms, organic (Guinda) mixed eggplant, Listada gi Gandia eggplant, graffiti eggplant, mixed medley cherry tomatoes, Jimmy Nardello peppers (see recipe), gypsy peppers (yellow and colored), padrón peppers, shishito peppers, yellow finn potatoes, German butterball potatoes
Castaneda Brothers Produce (Vacaville) toybox, Italian, yellow, gold bar, sunburst, summer, and Ronde de Nice squash
Vierra Farms (West Sacramento) white and yellow corn, black imagination watermelon, seedless watermelon
Twin Peaks Orchard (Newcastle) yellow and white peaches, yellow and white nectarines
Dwelley Farms (Oakley) pluots, white and yellow corn, cranberry beans, bluelake beans, Romano beans, yellow wax beans, French beans
J & J Ramos (Hughson) red plums, pluots, yellow and white peaches, yellow and white nectarines
Jimmy Nardello Romesco sauce
(courtesy of Scott Turnipseed, chef, Produce Express in Sacramento.)
8 Jimmy Nardello peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup roasted California almonds
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
1 cup virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and process until smooth. More oil can be added to make a creamier texture.
Uses: This sauce is great on red meats, roasted chicken, and white fish such as halibut or cod. Romesco is perfect for great seasonal produce such as summer squashes and eggplant. It also can be added to soups or stews.