Jessica Prentice, Maggie Gosselin, and Sarah Klein created the Local Foods Wheel to help us all enjoy the freshest, tastiest, and most ecologically sound food choices month by month. Here are Jessica’s seven best bets for the summer season. You can learn more about the Local Foods Wheel and the group’s other ventures at localfoodswheel.com
Little Gem Lettuces: These diminutive cousins of romaine are about as versatile and delicious as lettuce can be. Crisp enough to hold up to a heavy dressing (like Caesar or blue cheese) and elegant enough to be served as whole leaves, they also have enough body to be shredded finely and added to tacos with a squeeze of lime. When I can get them from local farms, like Blue Heron, these are just about the only lettuces I buy.
Summer Squash: There are a million ways to eat the tender young crooknecks, sunbursts, and zucchini of early summer, but steamed, sliced in half, and served with butter, salt, and pepper does just fine.
Elderberries: One of the few remaining natives that can still be harvested in the Bay Area’s wild areas, Sambucus mexicana produces tiny berries that can be cooked, dried, or fermented. They are quite tart, but delicious when sweetened—try making a syrup that can be drizzled on ice cream, pancakes, or yogurt, or stirred into bubbly water. Elderberries are famously fermented into wine and also produce an excellent liqueur.
Apricots: My favorites are the little ones (almost as small as cherries) from Knoll Farms in Brentwood. They’re firm-textured and just packed with flavor.
Honey: Of course you can get it year round, but no summer solstice celebration is complete without a taste of the bee’s sweet harvest. And it is so easy and satisfying to serve up a bowl of summer berries with a drizzle of local honey.
Cream: A little or a lot, cream takes any summer fruit to the next level. Pour it straight on, or first whip it (or culture it into creme fraiche) and then dollop away! If you have a bit more energy, take a crank at some homemade ice cream . . . Raw local cream + fresh fruit (think cherry, elderberry, apricot) + an egg yolk + a bit of honey + plenty of elbow grease = the most nourishing, guilt-free, locavore dessert ever (a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla won’t hurt either, even if they aren’t locavore).
Cherries: Life really is a bowl of cherries! You don’t have to bake cherry pies to justify buying basket after basket of these delicious fruits. Give them a rinse and put them in a pretty bowl with a small dish on the side for the pits and stems. As far as I’m concerned, that’s dessert!
Jessica Prentice is the author of Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection and co-founder of Three Stone Hearth Community Supported Kitchen in Berkeley. www.threestonehearth.com
Don’t Miss those Brentwood U-Pick Cherries!
May is when many of the U-pick farms in the Brentwood region of eastern Contra Costa County open up, and they’ll have acres of cherries, berries, and other fruit ripening in wait for