Whitesburg KY

It’s always summer

This is a big, wide, wonderful world we live on and it is always summer somewhere.

Now that might not sound very profound but it is when you consider that no matter what time of the year it is where you live, whether the snow is flying or the frost is heavy, or the sunshine is burning your skin a golden brown, you can always eat “fresh” if you can afford the price.

When we are in our own winter doldrums, leafing through colorful seed catalogs on a cold winter’s day while the snow is piling up outside and we are snug inside next to the woodstove, we can savor the flavor of a fresh watermelon or a bowl of red, ripe strawberries from somewhere in the world.

Much of the fresh produce we find in our supermarkets year around is grown in countries that are enjoying spring while we enjoy the colorful leaves of fall, or they are having their hot summer months while we shiver with the cold of snow and sleet.

On our own prolific Midwest farms, in our own good time, we can ship our produce and meats and other products back to those same countries that are by then trapped in their winter blues.

With the modern day methods of refrigeration and transportation, the delicious spears of tender asparagus can be growing in a field in Peru today and be on our dinner table tomorrow.

A big watermelon that resounds with a solid thump when you tap it with your fingers is probably right now swelling into ripeness in a southern Spain or South American farm field. It can be on the salad bar you frequent at almost any time throughout the year.

Of course we pay for this convenience at the checkout counter, but isn’t it somehow worth all that expense? I think it is. ‘Fresh’ always tastes better to me. There is nothing at all wrong with eating from jars and cans we have preserved ourselves, but fresh is just more appetizing and refreshing.

I started thinking about this recently when our local Kroger grocery had fresh asparagus from Peru for only $1.47 per pound. I had my husband pick up a couple of pounds of this bargain and we have had several meals from that. The shelf life of asparagus is very short so it has to be consumed quickly and that surely is not a problem at our house. I had not given the idea much thought before I saw their ad. I always assumed that I could only get this delicacy in late spring or early summer and had just never looked for it in the fall months.

My favorite way to cook asparagus is to rinse it well, cut off the tough bottom of the stem, place the spears in a casserole dish where it can lie lengthwise, sprinkle two pinches of dill seed over it and put two pats of margarine on it. Seal the dish tightly with plastic wrap. Place it in the microwave on high for 3 minutes; turn a half turn and microwave for an additional 2 minutes. When you take it out, hold the dish carefully and slosh it around to coat every spear with the margarine. Uncover and salt lightly to taste and enjoy. It is never slimy and should be slightly crunchy when it is prepared correctly.

Recently we were shopping for a new pickup truck and since we were gone several hours we stopped at a buffet to refuel ourselves. There on that salad bar were fresh peaches, strawberries, bananas, watermelon and two or three other kinds of melons.

Also on that bar were several kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces and other items that we can only grow here where we live during the hot summer months.

How nice it is to go into our grocery and pick up two or three bunches of dark green broccoli or a huge head of cauliflower at almost any time we want it.

This week it is cabbages that are on special; only .29 cents per pound; we bought three heads.

It is during this season that I buy up enough broccoli, cauliflower and celery to chop and place in my freezer. Last year I bought tons of the green stuff and we are just now nearing the bottom of the barrel on that. My celery is almost depleted. I can make about two or three more batches of soup or stews, so times are just right for me to restock.

My sister bought me a food processor from a thrift store for $5 and I have used it for many years to chop that produce. I’m really getting my money’s worth from that little appliance. It sure takes the work out of a job and saves my arthritic fingers at the same time.

When celery is about 49 cents a stalk I will buy three or four stalks and run it through the processor. Then I put it in my largest cake pan and set it in the freezer, checking it every couple of hours and stirring it up so it will stay separated. When it is frozen pretty solid, I bring it out and quickly bag it in quart bags. This way I can open a bag and take out as much as I need to make soup.

Celery and bell peppers do not have to be blanched before they are frozen so these items are quickly chopped and stored.

I have found that broccoli and cauliflower need to be blanched very briefly, not more than a minute each, then cooled, bagged and quickly frozen.

By buying in bulk and doing my own chopping and freezing, I can eat fresh from my freezer almost every day of the year.

I keep the freezer just out of the kitchen and around the corner in the dining room where it is handy. There is rarely a day goes by that a bag or two of something does not come from that freezer and end up on our table.

For many years I had the freezer sitting in our basement, loaded with food, but not used as often because I would have to go up and down a stairway to use it. Having it within reach of my kitchen stove really makes a big difference.

So, with these modern conveniences, buying in bulk after watching for sales and specials, I can cut our food bills down to a very manageable level.

I’m just glad that it is summer somewhere in the world if my freezer ever needs restocking.

Former Letcher County resident

Helen Ayers is an author now living

in Freetown, Indiana. Her email

address is hayers7256@yahoo.com

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