summer

To me, plums are like the last gasp of summer before fall settles in. They are related to other summer stone fruit, like peaches and apricots, but they have a much more elusive flavor.

Plums

The tall, willowy plant with the long, narrow leaves waved around in the breeze, behind the rows of neat balls of mini-basil. Wondering what it was, I stretched out a hand and rubbed a leaf.

Immediately, my senses were filled with a lemony, refined aroma. It was like a lemon scented geranium, but not quite. It was like lemon balm, but not as minty. The sunburned, kindly faced owner of the market stall said that it was verveine. He went into a long explanation, of which I understood perhaps half, about how to care for the plant. I nodded ernestly and took notes.

Summer is slowly drawing to a close. Sure it's mid-August, and the weather here has actually warmed up since the cold spell we had around the beginning of the month. But I can tell that summer is now an old lady because the taste of some produce is already changing. Peaches for instance. They were so sweet and juicy just a few days ago, but the ones I've bought the last few days are already either a bit too hard, a bit too sour, or rather mushy (showing they've been 'ripened' after being picked).

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Is it still steaming hot where you are? It has finally cooled down a bit here - yesterday it rained all day, and right now it's comfortably cool. We may yet have a heatwave though, and I'm still craving icy things to eat.

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You may have already seen this story about the animals in the Zürich Zoo being fed frozen meat and fruit "alternative ice cream" to cool them down. It seems that this isn't so uncommon. 20 Minuten, a free paper that's distributed in Zürich and other Swiss cities, has a great slide show on their web site of animals cooling down, using ice treats and other ways.

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Summer in most parts of Japan is hot and very humid, so cold foods are very popular. There are a lot of cold noodle dishes, such as chilled soba noodles and thin wheat noodes (hiyamugi or so-men). I love them all, but I think my favorite is hiyashi chuuka, which is Chinese-style cold noodles as interpreted by the Japanese.

Apricot preserves

I'm back home after spending an amazing two weeks in Provence, not to mention the three days before that in the Bourgogne (Burgundy). My sunburned skin feels a wee bit tender and is about the color of milk tea - brown with a decided reddish undertone. My head is bursting with ideas and thoughts and recipes, and I have more than 4,000 photos to sort through (not all of them of food, but a good amount are!) Chances are, you'll be reading a lot of these beautiful areas of France in the next few days around here.

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Although we can get mediocre strawberries now year-round, and even decent ones from warmer climates starting in late April or so, around these parts and in many of the chillier areas of the northern hemisphere, June marks the real start of the season.

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