Eating Locavore by Karen Shughart

We live in the Finger Lakes region of New York on the south shore of Lake Ontario. It’s a beautiful area with lovely scenery, and defined seasons. I love all the seasons here, but summer is the most bountiful. We’re surrounded by orchards and vineyards, cideries and apiaries, and farms offering up a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, dairy products, or cattle and chickens sustainably and humanely raised.

This year I made a concerted effort to buy local as much as possible. It’s decreased the number of trips to the grocery store, the food tastes better because it’s so fresh, and the shelf-life is longer. It’s also much less expensive. We joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from an organic farm that delivers items of our choosing every two weeks, and I shop weekly at a farm stand for fresh-picked produce, grass-fed beef, organic eggs from free range chickens, home baked bread, local honey, preserves and cheese. I grow my own herbs.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

For me, buying locally is exciting and challenging. I love concocting menus based on what’s available during any given week. If I can’t get spinach, I use kale and romaine. If strawberries are out of season, I buy berries or stone fruit. I’ll substitute Swiss chard for beet greens and when I can’t get cherry tomatoes, I buy the large, beefy ones that were so common during my childhood.

 I’ve learned to be creative with green beans, cruciferous vegetables, cucumbers, fresh garlic, zucchini, and blueberries, which are plentiful throughout most of the summer. Committing to buying locally and for the most part only eating what’s grown here and is in season also means we won’t be eating corn until early August, apples and pears until September, and winter squashes and root vegetables from early to late fall. When I’ve bought more than we can consume in a week or two, I make soups and stews to freeze for cold winter nights, and there’s always a large pitcher of homemade gazpacho in our refrigerator.

We don’t eat many sweets, but occasionally, especially on hot summer days, it’s nice to have a cold treat. I make homemade ice cream using an ice cream maker, cheating a bit with coconut or almond milk for the lactose intolerant among us, but also using milk from local dairies and fruit from local farms. A wine and spirits store in our village carries Finger Lakes wine; a shop up the road, locally made hard ciders and spirits.

I’ll do this again next year, it’s worked for us. We like knowing we’re supporting our local agricultural community and that everything we eat is fresh and healthy and supplied to us by our neighbors and friends..

August by Karen Shughart

Here up at the lake we’re surrounded by orchards, vineyards and farmland; gently rolling hills and meandering streams with an abundance of fish. It’s a beautiful place any time of the year, but the end of summer, the month of August, is special in so many ways.

Sunrise is a little later this time of year, we can hear the morning music of birds at around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. rather than 3:30 or 4:00 as in June. There’s something peaceful and magical about waking early in August to see the sun rise, it’s rose-gold rays casting brilliant diamond-like shards across the water. It’s a quiet time.

Warm days are the norm; some days the humidity rises, but on others bright blue skies, lazy white clouds, and a lake sluggishly rolling its waves onto the shore are a welcome change to the previously fetid air.  Sailboats dot the horizon, pontoons chug lazily about and motorboats slice through the undulating sea. Families play on the beach and picnic under a pavilion where long ago children laughed with delight as they rode a carousel.

A cornucopia of fresh produce offers up its bounty at a multitude of farm stands and markets. Lovely squashes, tomatoes, blueberries, cherries, corn, beans, and herbs create a riot of color far more beautiful than any still life painting.  And the fecund ripening of the fruit on trees in the orchards, especially the apples, the first of which will soon be ready for harvest, remind us that fall is on its way. The green, green grass of past months starts to brown, the flowers lose some of their bloom, and the limbs on deciduous trees, with their lush dark leaves, droop with anticipation as they begin to fade. In a month or two, their bright, warm hues will beckon an onslaught of sightseers.

Photo by Karen Shughart

Something about the light and the air bring visions of fall: bright, sunny days as crisp as biting into a just-picked apple.  It smells different, too. The air is perfumed, but in August, with a rich, heavy sweetness mingled with the beginnings of the decay that precedes fall and winter.

Later in the month, when the tourists and those who spend their summers at simple cottages here have gone, there’s silence  interrupted only by the occasional droning of a lawn mower,  the buzz of insects, the bark of a dog or the subdued chatter of friends and neighbors who pass by.