By Jane Reid
Delicious just-picked harvests from the Fraser Valley just keep on coming at this time of year—a veritable cornucopia of goodness. Corn, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and more berries just to name a few. Markets and roadside stands present a multi-coloured visual feast, all grown by local farmers. It’s easy to end up with so much of the tasty bounty that it requires some serious and inventive veggie and fruit eating when it all ends up at home, filling the crisper to over-flowing. How wonderful to live in the Lower Mainland in summertime!
An all-time favourite, BC corn harvests continue to feed us at this time of year, and Fraser Valley corn is known as the best. People have been eating corn for thousands of years but it has been a puzzle to botanists for centuries. Sometimes called a “hopeless monster” by scientists, there is no other plant quite like corn: ramrod straight tall stocks with 3-foot narrow leaves and peculiar cobs. Like all the plants we eat, it originally came from the wild. After years of searching, it took DNA testing to finally confirm that a similar plant in Mexico was the first, wild corn. Oddly, corn requires human hands to plant its seeds to grow crops each year—a symbiotic relationship unique in the plant world. There is something else special about corn too—it has a crazy sex life. (Too complicated to go into here, the story is told in my book.) But when holding a steaming cob picked from a local farmer’s field, slathered with butter and a sprinkling of salt, all that matters is the taste– sweet, juicy and tender!
If there are too many cobs in the pot, it is simple to make a salad using the leftovers with the following recipe: Rinse a 540 ml can of black beans, drain well and put in a bowl. Slice the kernels off three cooked corn cobs (local of course) and add to the beans. Chop one BC grown red pepper (or any other colour) and toss that in along with enough snipped fresh local Italian parsley to make it look lovely. For the dressing, whip together 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons of cider vinegar, 3 teaspoons of honey and the juice of ¾ lime. Pour over salad and mix. Serve right away, or even better, marinate in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours mingle. Tasty, pretty and colourful…what could be better?
Fresh local cucumbers, another summertime favourite, grace markets right now, heaped high in a selection of sizes, shapes and colours. Varieties grown in BC now include those originally from Japan and the rest of Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Refreshingly juicy–a kind of green water bottle—local cucumbers are ideal for hot weather eating. Salads are a popular way to enjoy the bounty, but it is a cinch to make tzatziki too. To prepare, finely chop any type of crisp locally grown cucumber and add to an equal amount of plain gelatin-free yoghurt. Stir to mix. Tzatziki makes a delicious cool accompaniment to flatbread, grilled skewers and curries. Perfect for the patio!
Author Jane Reid is passionate about locally grown BC foods–especially corn! Her book, Freshly Picked: A Locavore’s Love Affair with BC’s Bounty, is filled with fascinating facts, personal stories, tips for buying, and preserving plus simple recipes. It is available online as well as at local bookstores and libraries in the Fraser Valley. A must for anyone keen on eating local harvests and a perfect gift for BC foodies.