Monday, August 01, 2011

Seasonal Pleasures and Gifts From Mother Nature

What a joy it is to wake up to a gloriously sunny Monday morning after a wonderful weekend! It's amazing how much fun we can pack into two days- going to the movies, having a Saturday wine lunch at a lovely restaurant, preparing a great steak and enjoying it with one of the best wines we've ever had (more on that later), doing some garden work and being the only ones brave enough to have dinner outside, by the wood burning stove that is. As I've mentioned before, we aren't having much of a summer in the Netherlands. Lots of rain, gray skies and cool temperatures. We're hoping to catch up on all of that missed sunshine in a few weeks when we go to France, but in the meantime, we make the best of what mother nature offers us now. And at the moment, that also happens to include strawberries!
I'm always amazed when I spot strawberries in the shops or at the market during the winter, mainly around the holidays. You'd be surprised at how much they're actually sold, despite the fact that they're watery, pink instead of red and about as big as a golf ball. It seems as though we've forgotten all about nature these days. Who cares if those strawberries are imported from halfway aroud the world! As long as we have them as a garnish for our fancy Christmas dessert!
This doesn't only apply to strawberries. In fact, it has to do with a gradual disconnection from nature. The days when we only ate what the seasons had to offer are long behind us. You can get anything you want these days, at any cost. Even if it means forgetting all about nature, disregarding those hard-working local farmers and instead contributing to unecessary food mileage. I can't help but feel a sense sadness, especially when I realize how many children are growing up today completely oblivious to nature. Forget those who buy summer fruit in winter and think about their kids who might not know the difference between a courgette and a cucumber!
The garden can be one of the best places to teach children about food and nature. By planting a fruit tree or growing things like cherry tomatoes and strawberries, they'll learn to not only appreciate nature, but also to respect it.
There's absolutely no need for a huge space. I grow many of my fruits and vegetables in large pots. And should your harvest be less than wonderful, there's no reason to panic either. This summer, for example, we've been luckier with some things than with others. You've heard enough about our courgettes and our apples are growing stronger and redder every day, but our strawberries...
While we did manage to enjoy some from our plants, the harvest just wasn't what it should've been. I'm not sure if I should blame the magpies who beat me to the punch every morning, or the gloomy weather and lack of sun, but I'm happy that I have at least done my share by teaching Kirstie one of nature's many valuable lessons.
Here in the Netherlands, strawberry season runs from June to right around the middle of August, but honestly, I think they're at their best for about two or three weeks- from about the end of June to about the middle of July. Therefore, I really notice a difference in their taste right now and instead of eating them fresh, I would rather use them for things like pies and jams.