This time of year brings such inspiration when it comes to eating. By this time we are done with soups and stews. Totally over baked dishes and comfort food. So ready for something new, something fresh. Just when I think I’ll never feel inspired to cook another dinner, the spinach and kale pop up in the garden. Bringing hope back into the kitchen. Then come the strawberries...bright red peaking out from under the green. Excitement starts because I know this is only the beginning. Oh, I how Iove this time of year for a million reasons. In the top five is definitely eating real food that we grow.
I am not the gardener in our family, but luckily my husband is. He starts our tomatoes as seeds and gently moves the tiny plants to the dirt once the danger of frost is over. Tending to them and the other baby plants with such care. He grows it and then I cook it. We wait patiently as the summer goes...going through different crops as they come. Harvesting and eating what is fresh that week. The greens will slowly make way for the abundance of zucchini and then towards the end of summer the final reward is always red, ripe tomatoes. There is nothing, nothing like a garden tomato. Zucchini time is one of my favorites. Perhaps not the rest of my family, I think they get sick of me incorporating it into every single meal. Not wanting to waste a bit of it I shred the excess to freeze and store to get through the winter months when we are craving a bit of garden flavor. It also helps to have gardening family and friends. Fortunately I have both. Everyone growing different things, trading and sharing the abundance of what we’ve grown. Taking anything offered simply because I know it was grown with love. I do not enjoy swiss chard, but if my sister gives us some I will take it and I will like it whether I want to or not. I’ll throw it in a soup because it sure beats buying some store bought greens that traveled miles to get here.
In Bozeman we get more than what grows in our own gardens. The farmers markets are a weekly treat where the possibilities of fresh vegetables show up at the very first one. There are two great markets here in Bozeman but I am partial to the one at Bogert. Maybe because it reminds me of childhood and getting a kitten there once upon a time. Maybe because it is such a nice way to spend a summer evening. Strolling through the vendors...picking up some potatoes and onions, finding a yummy dessert for the kids, smelling the deliciousness coming from the food carts and listening to the noise of happy shoppers and local music. Running into friends and letting the kids splash in the creek. Even better is once in awhile finding vendors with fruit...cherries and maybe even peaches...coming from the other side of the divide where fruit grows more easily. Flathead cherry samples getting handed out making it impossible to leave without a bag or two.
We got a sneak peek of garden season this year with a rainy day spring trip out to 7 Spruce Farm, a hydroponic tomato farm north of town and a sight to behold. Tim Gallagher constructed a 3,000 SF greenhouse and filled it with 600 tomato plants in hopes of harvesting them year round to the local community. Walking from the cool outside day and into the warm, humid greenhouse felt a bit like stepping off the airplane in Florida. For this heat loving girl, it made me want to pull up a chair, get comfortable and stay awhile. We got to walk around this tomato wonderland with Mr. Gallagher and hear how he dreamed something up and made it happen. We left with a couple pounds of tomatoes we bought from their farm stand and immediately went home for tomato sandwiches. Amazing. A taste of summer and what is to come. Keep your eyes open at the Coop and some restaurants around town that are using these tomatoes...you will not be disappointed.
Things are just getting started, happy eating my friends.
Angela Jamison is a native Montanan and she grew up in beautiful Bozeman. I'm the mother of two girls and write a blog about our life here and taking in the simple pleasures of family and food.