Saturday, August 04, 2007

August Happens

I've heard people complain that August around here means life stops. One woman once whined to me, "I don't know anyone who can get anything to happen in a garden in August." I disagree. Lots and lots happens.

For starters, the grasshoppers come out.



I know they nibble on my plants, but the birds love catching them, and they add quite a bit of drama to the little plot.

The spiders and mites, praying mantis and butterflies are all in full force too. So is this strange insect, imitating a twig. It's not a stick bug, which has much more pronounced legs, but seems to be a caterpillar of some sort. I took quite a few pictures of it so perhaps one of my readers can help me identify this curious creature.




The heat ripens the "feral" grapes that climb a cement block wall and fig tree that I pass on my walk to and from the garden. The birds get the ripest ones and I think some homeless folks have found them too.



So much food grows wild or untended around here. It's a beautiful part of living in this area of the world, and one that I think is often unobserved. The land seems to share itself here, and sometimes folks figure out how to encourage this sharing. The people at Fallen Fruit have some great ideas, especially for this temperate climate, but probably applicable to other climates as well. Read their manifesto. Think about it.

August also means cucumbers happen. If you happen to find a naturalized cucumber vine, if the cukes in your garden are going gangbusters, or, if your farmers at your market are unloading cucumbers at unbelievable prices simply because their gardens are going gangbusters, I have the ideal hot weather salad for you. It's simple. It's cool. It's a little different from the vinegar/cucumber/onion salad you may have grown up with. And, it is a great way to eat up those August cucumbers.

Thai Cucumber Salad
Adapted from Epicurious (original recipe available here).

You will need:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3-4 thinly sliced fresh red arbol chilies (or whatever chilies you have available, adjusted to your taste)
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
3-4 smallish cucumbers, peel on, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline slicer and watched out for my fingertips)
1/2 of medium-sized sweet onion, thinly sliced (once again, the mandoline did the job for me)
1/2 cup of chopped herbs: Thai basil (you can use Italian basil if that is what you have available) cilantro, and mint, combined

Stir the first six ingredients together in a 4 cup or larger tightly-lidded container and stir to combine. Drop in the cucumbers, onion, and herbs, cover the container, and give the whole thing a good shake to mix. Taste a cuke for seasonings, and adjust as necessary. Place the container in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving to let the flavors combine and the ingredients chill.

Eat with abandon and glee.

12 comments:

ann said...

wow, I don't know what that bug is, but it's really odd looking.
Thanks for the salad recipe, I do love kirby salads but get a bit bored. We'll have to give this a go.

Genie said...

Christina, I love those grasshopper pics -- gorgeous! And that's a terrific cuke salad recipe -- I think I might give it a try.

Susan said...

I'm stumped about that one creature; it has great camouflage, like a withered blossom. The owner of that bowling shoe and sock is going to be much harder to identify. Your grasshoppers are quite handsome, Vogue material. : )

The Passionate Palate said...

Terrificly observant photos! That unusual bug is wonderful; I thought it was a stick bug. I'll keep an eye out for them in my garden. Delicious sounding recipe, too.

Wendy said...

I don't know what that beastie is but it's freaking me out!
Love the sound of this salad and am wishing we had the weather here for us to eat it outside. I've gone from 28oC and sun in Finland to 11oC and gale force winds at home!

Christina said...

Ann: You're welcome. I hope you like it.

Genie: Thank you. Let me know how it works for you.

Susan: Thank you! Isn't that a funky-looking creature? So far, it seems no one knows exactly what it is.

The Passionate Palate: Thank you! I hope you enjoy the salad.

Wendy: Ugh! 11 degrees C? That is miserable. Doesn't sound much like summer. I hope it warms up for you.

Terry B said...

Wonderful summer observations, Christina, both the words and pictures. And a nice take on cucumbers. Another simple, different take on them is to cut them into chunks or spears and sprinkle them with lime juice and chili powder. refreshing with a little zing.

kate said...

You've gotta love those grasshoppers. I don't mind them even if they do take healthy chunks out of my plants. I love watching them.

I agree - August is a wonderful month. There are more things happening in my garden in August, I think, than in July.

Thanks for the recipe... I'll give it a try.

Lucy said...

Hadn't heard about the people at Fallen Fruit, but what a fantastic manifesto. Fruit for all, fruit for free.

Do you mind sharing a little of your bounty with others? Something tells me no. Lovely photos Christina.

Shaun said...

Christina - Thanks for the snapshots of your lovely garden and for the cucumber salad recipe, always great respite from the Summer sun. Eric makes a delicious cucumber salad, too, that I should learn how to make and share with you. We were in Pasadena yesterday. I waved, not knowing where you live of course but knowing you were in the general area.

Christina said...

Terry B: Thank you! You can't go wrong combining lime and chili and dolloping it on some kind of juicy veggie or fruit--I completely agree with you.

Kate: August is meditative here. The heat slows everything down, but that means the garden just demands more careful observation. Are the grasshoppers wonderful to watch?

Lucy: I'm glad you enjoyed the Fallen Fruit point of view. I need to learn more about that organization because I think it would be fun to get involved with them. And yes, I love to share what my little plot grows.

Shaun: You're welcome. I'd love to hear how Eric makes his salad. And yesterday, I think I caught a glimpse of your wave. Thank you for thinking of me. I hope you're return to California has been pleasant.

claudia said...

the cucumber salad sounds perfect. i'll try it soon. mine with vinegar, sugar, dill was bporing me to tears...