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Seven Stars of the Harvest Season

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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 harvest season. You can learn more about the Local Foods Wheel and the group’s other ventures at localfoodswheel.com

There are few foods I enjoy as much as sweet corn on the cob in season. It is so easy to shuck a few ears, put them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, and eat them dripping with butter. Cutting the fresh kernels off the cob is a bit messier and takes a few more minutes, but I’ve learned to happily clean up the mess in exchange for fresh corn in chowder, budin de maiz (Mexican corn custard), or succotash. I make the latter by sauteing fresh beans (limas are the best) in butter with a little smoked chile (ancho, chipotle), adding the fresh corn, and then drowning it all in cream.

Tomatoes are truly a star of the season. This is the time of year to eat as many BLTs as you want, make your own fresh salsa, slice up tomatoes to serve with basil and fresh mozzarella, or prepare panzanella, an Italian bread salad. To make panzanella, I start by cubing stale bread, tossing the cubes in olive oil, and toasting in a low oven.  These croutons then go into a salad bowl with fresh juicy tomatoes (cut in cubes) and basil leaves. It all gets tossed with more olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar. The challenge is getting the salad onto a plate before I eat it all up.

Okra is unfairly maligned in most parts of the United States, with the notable exception of the South, where it’s adored and used to famous effect in gumbo. If you’re one of those with okra-phobia, try opening your mind and palate to this nutritious, delicious, and sustainable vegetable with its soothing, silky texture. Taste it in one of its many traditional guises from the Middle East, North India, Pakistan, West Africa, the Caribbean, or Brazil. Try calling it “lady fingers,” as many non-Americans do. Eat the green ones, but try the crimson ones too. Full Belly Farm grows fabulous okra, so don’t let this harvest pass you by.

We all know Northern California is a great grape growing region, but many of our tasty table grape varieties get eclipsed by their wine-destined cousins. Too bad! One of my favorites is the Bronx variety grown by Lagier Ranches. This rare and short-seasoned treat is worth a special trip to the farmers market.

More and more local farms, such as Eatwell, Massa Organics, and Full Belly, are growing and milling their own varieties of wheat, providing great inspiration for bakers. This is your chance to reconnect with our local landscape and see what it might really look like to live off the local harvest.

Now is the time to indulge your tastes for baba ghanoush, ratatouille, and eggplant parmesan! Roasted, grilled, stewed, or sauteed, eggplant is a great vehicle for a wide range of flavors, from herby to spicy, and it takes well to tomato sauce, coconut milk, and olive oil. Eggplant comes to us in a beautiful array of colors (green, pink, dark purple, and white), as well as diverse shapes and sizes. This seriously fun vegetable has a tendency to love the one it’s with, making it a pleasure for creative cooks and a happy addition to almost any meal while it’s in season.

Many people shy away from goat meat, thinking it will have a gamey flavor. But all the local goat I’ve eaten has actually been milder in flavor than lamb. A broth made from goat bones is considered in Ayurveda to be the most tridoshic of broths, which means that it is healing to people of every constitution. Goat meat is wonderful in curries, loves salsa and peppers of all kinds, and is also great on the grill. When in doubt, cook it as you would lamb.

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. threestonehearth.com Line drawings are by Sarah Klein (sarahklein.com) with coloring by Maggie Gosselin

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