Okra and Other Summer Garden Delights

photoWhat you see above is summer’s bounty, people. Fresh basil, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and okra just picked from the garden.

I dedicate this Paestry post to my co-worker who kindly shared these garden delights with me these past two months. The experience has already cemented a future plan to begin gardening.image_7It is mind-boggling how prolific a garden can be. It started with never-ending yellow summer squash, cucumbers and “peaches and cream” corn, then the green beans and bell peppers arrived and the okra emerged. Soon, the jalapenos and banana peppers appeared and now the tomatoes are really taking off.photoThis entire time, the basil has been thriving. It is the most fragrant basil I have ever encountered. I plucked a leaf once, ate it straight-up and it was so fresh it tingled my tongue. frametastic

image_5I will take a moment to focus on okra. It is a wonderful and mysterious vegetable. Before moving to Alabama, the only times I’ve eaten it were in gumbo or Indian curries.

The most distinctive thing about them is their sliminess, which is by no means unpleasant but rather their best trait. Cooking them reduces the slipperiness inside the pods but I like the slimy texture.
image (2)image_3Their flavor is challenging to describe. It’s unlike any vegetable out there, really. Kind of musky and mellow in a green vegetable way, if that make any sense at all.

The plants grow really tall, as high as five feet. They make beautiful flowers too. I’ve read they love hot and humid weather, which explains why they thrive in the South. image_1 (2)My friend and I cooked them the traditional southern way. We cut them in small pieces, coated with cornmeal and fried until crispy. Other recipes have them battered and deep-fried. I’ve also fried some just covered with flour. Anything goes!image_4 (2)

image_5 (2)It has been a marvelous summer of fresh garden vegetables. To close, these are some cool hop plants that grew high up a trellis.image_10frametastic(1)

Taste of Alabama: New Market BBQ

photo 2Just your typical lunch at yet another fabulous BBQ joint in north Alabama. This one, at New Market Bar-B-Q in New Market.

MaryMac Berry Farm

image_3There can be so much joy in picking your own fruit. I felt it yesterday while picking blueberries at MaryMac Berry Farm in Brownsboro, a few miles east of Huntsville.image_9The experience became all the more delightful when I took the fresh berries home and made a batch of blueberry muffins. Just knowing the berries were plucked from their stems mere hours before they were dunked in a dense batter and baked, made me feel good.image_7The farm is really wonderful. It’s tucked away along the foothills of Monte Sano, which provide a gorgeous backdrop by the small farm. We went early Saturday morning when the dew was still heavy on the bushes. image_4

frametasticThe grower advised us to look inside the bushes for the biggest, bluest ones and they were indeed bigger and bluer there. Some grow in little bunches like grapes while others grow alone on a solitary stem.

The best part of berry-picking is eating them as you go and noticing how one tastes curiously different from another. Each blueberry had its own distinctive sweetness and flavor. I even ventured to believe that certain bushes produced better-tasting berries than others.image_8They are splendid just by themselves or on cereal but I decided to make muffins out of them too. It was nice to liberally pour the blueberries in the batter because I had so many at-hand. I used about two cups of berries so that each bite would be packed with fruit.image_10I’m glad I did that. Just look at what happened inside these muffins. The fresh blueberries exploded into an amazing violence of dark, antioxidant-packed juices.

I hope you can also find joy in picking fruit. It is, after all, summertime! Stay tuned for more summer produce-related posts…

Vidalia Onion Pie

image

Oh yes, the Vidalia onion. They are sweeter and milder than their yellow, brown and white relatives. They’re available pretty much everywhere in the south and prized for their mellow deliciousness.

The Vidalia Onion Committee makes sure these onions are grown in only 13 Georgia counties near the city of Vidalia, where they were born. Something about the soil in that region makes these onions more sweet and less spicy.

But enough about the onion’s history. Look at what I did with some Vidalias about a week ago. I made a pie!

image_4

Slice the onions and cook them in lots of butter until they’re soft and translucent but not browned. Set aside.

photo

In a bowl, mix sour cream, eggs, milk and S&P until smooth. Add the buttery onions to the mix. Pour into an uncooked pie shell, top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake for about 45 minutes.frametastic

Slice, and enjoy it as a side dish or just by itself. As a Vidalia onion grower was quoted, these sweet onions “only make you cry when they’re gone.”

image_5

Just Because Avocado

photoPosting this picture of an avocado just because we all know how amazing they are. Thanks, avocado.