Coming out of the dog days of summer

Published 8:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2022

We have reached August 11, the last of the dog days of summer for 2022. Now, it’s the blowout of hot and humid days, ubiquitous mid-to-late afternoon thunder-filled showers, and all kinds of green broccoli, Brussel sprouts, pole and half runner beans mixed with the yellow of summer squash and corn, right next to the shiny, dark purple of eggplants.

Joining these are the great variety of dark, golden yellow peaches with specks or virtually full coverage of red (the parts that are directly open to the sun) which grow in this area of the state.

It is a colorful medley both in the garden and on the table.

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Today, many people are so concerned with the comfort or discomfort of the sun’s rays as it appears higher in the sky this time of year that they are unaware of when fruits and vegetables are actually in season. That was no problem for many of their ancestors in the Dark Corner. Every family, of necessity, had a garden every year and preserved much of what was grown in it to be eaten in winter months.

To enjoy the full flavor of a vegetable or fruit, buy it from a local farmer’s market or seek a neighbor’s garden overage (you may be blessed enough to have a neighbor who shares messes with you). That way you are eating them when they are picked at just the right time in season.

If you haven’t thought much about it, compare the succulent taste of a vine-ripened, local tomato to an imported one from Mexico or a hothouse-grown one in the wintertime. Or, judge the sweetness of a local strawberry that you picked yourself in season to the high-priced ones in the supermarket out of season.

Fruits picked at the peak of the season and allowed to ripen locally are more nutritional than those shipped in that have been sprayed with chemicals or ripening agents to slow down maturation and ripening. 

Locally grown peaches do have to be sprayed to prevent fungal diseases, and destroy aphids, scale, mites and mealybugs. Skins must be washed thoroughly before eating.

Not only will your palette be more pleased with the taste of locally grown food in season, but you will be contributing to the local economy, learning more about your community and neighbors, and may find some delicious foodstuff that may not be available in the local supermarket. 

Not a bad ending to summer’s dog days.

You may be wondering why we refer to them in canine terms. Sirius appearing in the sky just before the sun near the end of July marked the beginning of the very hottest days of the year. The Romans referred to this period as “dies caniculares” or “days of the dog star,” which was eventually translated as just “dog days.”