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.