A Taste of Summer

Summer_vegetables By Ali Wetherbee

Long, hot, sunny days. Farmers’ markets. Swimming. Fireflies. There’s so much to do, and so much time to just be. My family looks forward to summer all year long. We love outdoor concerts, evenings on the beach, and camping. I love the way time seems to recede, and the days all run together. With hectic schedules, sometimes we lose our grasp on the beauty of summer, but if we give ourselves some time, we can find it again. Spending hours at the park, kayaking down the river, curling up with a good book under an old tree… nature is at our fingertips and beneath our feet all summer long.

Saturdays at the farmers’ market. There’s nothing better than selecting beautiful, freshly picked produce to the sound of an acoustic guitar, while surrounded by other shoppers who truly care about eating well and supporting the local economy. There is always something new and interesting to try: unique varieties of heirloom veggies, organically grown hybrid fruits, tart jams and fresh breads. Farm workers are eager to talk about their harvest and products. It’s a mutli-sensory experience, with so much to see, touch, smell, and taste.

Pick-Your-Own Produce. Yes, only in America do we pay for the privilege of picking our own food! But so many of us are eager to return to our hunter-gatherer roots, to teach our children where their food comes from, and to pass down a passion for the earth, gardening, self-sustenance, and fresh food. While some berries are already past peak, many pick-your-own fruits are just hitting their prime. In Rhode Island right now, blueberries and raspberries are ripe for the picking, and apples and peaches will soon be ready. You don’t have to restrict yourself only to farms; think outside the box and learn to search out, identify, and harvest wild edibles available in your geographical area. Whether on a farm or in the middle of the woods, there is something meditative and empowering about picking your own food. I find my body moves in different ways — crouching to reach a plump berry, leaning this way or that to avoid any thorns or poison ivy, reaching overhead for a shiny apple. I feel connected with my ancestors, who spent hours every day gathering food.

Garden Abundance. If your garden succeeded this year, chances are you have an abundance — or over-abundance! — of ripe fruits and veggies just waiting to be picked. The pride of growing your own food is amazing — not to mention the feeling of the cool, damp dirt beneath your feet and the delicious juiciness of garden-fresh tomatoes! If you have more than you can eat, you have lots of choices for the surplus. To freeze produce, first clean, dry, and slice, then spread out on a tray. Leave in the freezer until frozen solid, then transfer to a container or freezer bag. You’ll be enjoying your bounty even in the dead of winter! You can also try your hand at canning, dehydrating, or pickling. If you still have excess, friends and neighbors may happily take some off your hands — or donate to the community food bank, which is often lacking fresh items.

Camping. Count me among the most resistant to camping. There’s so much to pack for even just a couple of nights… plus there are bugs! Not to mention, I rather enjoy a hot shower every morning! But every time we arrive at a campground, an amazing transformation happens to my family. We leave our laptops at home, turn off our phones, and just enjoy nature and each other. Canoeing around the lake, counting the stars, hiking through the woods, sitting by the smoky fire — these all bring me an inner peace that can’t be found by surfing Facebook! Some of our best memories were formed on these camping trips.

Summer has so much to offer; this is just the tip of the iceberg. So many of our summer activities revolve around nature and the great outdoors. It brings us back to our roots, back to what is truly important and sustaining in life. Outings like long days at the beach and family picnics are more than just fun vacation activities; they rejuvenate our bodies, minds, and souls. They give us an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the earth — and with each other. 

What is your favorite summer activity?

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