The hot weather is definitely here in North Carolina, in spite of an oddly slow start to the summer. All our usual steamy heat appears to have been redirected to Siberia this year. But though I'm definitely sweating, early July is the inflection point when cool spring crops finish up and hot-weather favorites come on in earnest. I've had a few handfuls of green peppers and heaps of basil and green beans, and I can see the cucumbers, zucchini, okra, and tomatoes will arrive shortly, but for the moment I'm still mostly eating spring crops like beets and carrots.
Eating Seasonally is More Interesting
I first started eating seasonally so I could save money by growing my own food, support my local economy, and have the freshest and most flavorful stuff. But that's not why I keep doing it. The truth is I just personally find it more interesting than eating off the shelf. This sounds backwards! How could it be more interesting to keep on eating local apples every day from October to April, when I could get just about anything I craved at the store? When I first started eating seasonally, I thought I was in for some feelings of deprivation.
But I was wrong...I might be able to get a tasteless red tomato at Walmart every day of the year, but with my current growing system I can only have lumpy Cherokee Purples, sweet German Johnsons, tiny yellow Blonde Girls and pink Arkansas Travelers from July to October. And that's fine. While they're here I positively relish them every day, and preserve some as salsa, sauce and dehydrated.
By Halloween I'm tired of fresh tomatoes, and not even interested in the flavorless impostors on the shelf. I'm not a purist. I might buy a store tomato during the winter. I'm always disappointed when I do, though, and it only makes me look forward to the garden variety all the more. It's the same with everything I've successfully grown, from blueberries to melons to sweet potatoes to goat. I like my weird varieties that can't be bought anywhere. I like to gorge when they're here, and then forget about them and eat something else for a while, and then crave them before they arrive once again. It keeps life interesting, so I keep doing it, learning to eat what we grow and use up all the extra.
But What to Do With All Those Beets?
Beets grow very, very well here in North Carolina. They'll tolerate a freeze, and they'll tolerate 90 degrees. This spring when I quit going to the store because of corona virus, our main source of fresh veg was half a row of beets that were just too tiny and sad to harvest last fall, along with some arugula and chard. I threw some row cover over them, and they not only lived through the winter but also sized up into nice roots.
And now in July, when the sun is hammering down and the cilantro and lettuce have long since gone to seed, my spring planting of beets is still giving us calories. The trick is to find as many different ways to eat them as possible.
I pickled many pints, of course. My family loves pickles. They are an excellent candidate for home production because they're fairly expensive to buy so it's well worth my time to make them, plus they fit well into my no-cook lunch plan. This year I grew a variety called Cylindrical, which are big and long and carrot-shaped, conveniently yielding many slices of the same diameter for the pickle jar.