Produce at its Peak: Suddenly Summer

Summer came all of a sudden, curtailing ramp season. I hope you got a taste while they were still around, but if you didn’t, there are still lots of interesting early season local products around.

For instance green garlic, which is simply the first shoot of the garlic plant, uprooted, cleaned and bundled together. As the year goes on, these shoots will develop a tough inner stem, form the familiar garlic bulbs and eventually end up in the far corner of the produce department on the root rack. But right now, they are tender enough to chop up like tender scallions.

One way that I have been using them lately is in a ramen soup of my own invention. The grocery department now carries three varieties of ramen style rice noodles from Lotus Organics. I like to use the black rice kind-while the noodles are boiling in about a cup and a half of water, I drop a spoonful of miso in a large cereal bowl and loosen it with a little water. When the noodles are a minute away from being done, I crack an egg into the water, add chopped garlic scallions and finely chopped cooking greens. When the noodles are done, the egg should be perfectly soft poached and the greens just tender. Pour the whole business on top of the miso slurry and stir gently a couple of times. This is a very versatile recipe and also quite soothing to the digestion. I have made it with chicken broth, added other proteins or vegetables, and tried more elaborate seasonings.

Another local item is rhubarb, which used to be known as pieplant since that was just about the only use that people had for it. In our modern era, when we seem bent on reinventing the flavors of just about everything, rhubarb can be found in chutneys, sodas, raw salads, you-name-it. But my favorite way to eat it will always be the way my grandparents served it to us, cooked with sugar into a sweet compote and then spread on buttered toast after dinner. It’s just like pie but easier and faster, and probably a little healthier. These days I might add a drop of orange flower water and use honey instead of sugar.

It was by chance that I discovered how delicious grapes and mint are when combined. It is finally grape season in California, and we have a display as wide as a small beach in the Produce Department. Red, green and black are all quite delicious. Rinse them, cut in have and toss with some finely chopped mint for a deeply cooling salad.

Watermelons are so crisp and delicious this year. This year we’ve decided to carry bins of seedless and seeded simultaneously. My preference is for seeded, both because I enjoy sitting on the porch and spitting the seeds into the yard and because I find the texture to be consistently better. However, seedless are generally just fine as well, and kids often prefer them. Our signage to indicates the variety but in general, seeded watermelons are elongated and the seedless are rounder and a bit smaller.

Prices and availability are subject to rapid change in the Produce Department. Please call ahead if you're making a special trip for an item at Seward Co-op.