With another 4th of July three day weekend upon us, and during a time in our country when I’m not feeling very celebratory, I’ve been thinking a lot about raw foods that we always ate during the summer. That’s right! Raw foods. Based on the title of this post, what did you think I was going to write about? 😉
On Saturday, in the rain, we made a trip to a farmer’s market we’d never visited before. Both of us love farmer’s markets because we love fresh fruits and vegetables, and they are a bit nostalgic. We bought plums, peaches, apples, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, a pink pineapple, and some asparagus. Other than making a peach cobbler, the majority of the fruit will be eaten raw.
Up until this year, when I started working from home, my breakfast usually consisted of a piece of fruit. I also included fruit with lunch, along with raw vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, or cucumber with Ranch dressing because it’s quick and easy.
My love of raw vegetables comes from my childhood when, as a family, we went out to eat every Friday night, usually to some sort of steakhouse that had a salad bar or buffet. I always ordered chicken fingers with French fries, but I loved to make my own salad from the bar just like my parents did. A love of cauliflower was born after wanting to sample this unusual vegetable, and I’ve loved it ever since. To this day, I still have to get a pile of dill pickle spears from the salad bar when going out to eat!
My dad was a bit of a farmer, and so was his father. He grew acres of tomatoes, peas, green beans, okra, peppers, and corn. Our entire summer was devoted to gardening. Therefore, our dinner table always had fresh vegetables. If the garden wasn’t ripe yet, we stopped at a roadside stand run by a man named Mr. Greer who always had fresh vegetables for sale, along with a flatbed trailer full of giant watermelons. A watermelon from Mr. Greer was a staple for every July 4th holiday.
My dad always grew more than we could ever possibly eat as a family. My mom canned and froze a lot of it. My dad sold some to local grocery stores. But the majority was given away to neighbors, coworkers, and friends. My dad loved to feed the neighborhood. Today, my mother and brother still grow a garden in Mom’s backyard and still give a ton of it to their neighbors and church friends.
At our dinner table, my parents loved a plate of fresh cut tomato with just salt and pepper. My dad munched on green-stemmed summer onions. I used to love to eat a freshly picked turnip. At most holidays, Mom prepped a tray of dill pickle spears, carrot sticks, radishes, and celery with pimento cheese. Mom loves a fresh cut cantaloupe, and when they are in season there’s always a bowl of slices in her fridge. She’ll eat a slice with every meal.
And stawberries! My dad grew those too. they were used to make a dessert called “Strawberries in the Snow,” and Mom made jam but the majority were eaten raw with just a sprinkle of sugar. I’ve also always been a fan of grapes. I think the first grapes I ever ate were from a vine in a neighbor’s backyard. My brother mowed their yard for them and I played in their yard under the grapevine trellis while munching on the fruit. We also had blackberry bushes in our backyard. They were also used to make jam, but picking a handful of berries and eating them right from the vine was a rite of passage when it came to summer.
Today, I tend to buy more than I can eat. I love having a bin full of vegetables in the fridge. I cut them up and eat them. I make fresh salads. We also have a small garden of tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, and squash in our back yard each year. And I owe my love of raw fruits and vegetables to my family and my youth.
There was so much gardening, and so much good food that made us happy. I used to sit in a red wagon that my dad pulled around the neighborhood on Sunday. He’d knock on neighbors’ doors and ask them if they needed some tomatoes or corn. They never turned him down. And that’s a fond memory for me.
It’s taken all these years to understand why my dad grew so much. I didn’t understand it back then, but now I do. There’s nothing like eating something you grew. There’s nothing better than sharing your harvest with friends.