July Almanac 2019

By Ash Alder

Snapshots from July are salt-laced and dreamy.

Children skipping through sprinklers on the front lawn.

Baskets of ripe peaches, still warm from the sun.

Tree houses and tackle boxes.

Tangles of wild blackberry.

Brown paper bags filled with just-picked sweet corn.

Last summer, gathered in celebration of July 4, we made a game of shucking sweet corn on my grandmother’s front porch. Two points for each clean ear, a bonus per earworm, yet as husks and corn silk began to carpet the ground beneath us, joy and laughter were all that counted.

And now, memories.

Like Papa’s pickles, made with the cukes from his own garden.

Speaking of Papa . . . something tells me he would have loved watching us turn a chore into a simple pleasure, perhaps the secret of any seasoned gardener.

The Art of Shade-Dwelling

In the sticky July heat our state is known for, not just the flowers are wilting.

Advice from a fern: seek shade and thrive.

Yes, you.

Bring a hammock, summer reading, refreshments, pen and journal.

Daydream beneath the lush canopy. Bathe in the filtered light. Indulge in the summery soundscape. Cloud gaze.

And if you’re looking for a spot by the water, follow the spiraling dragonfly. She will always lead you there.

The dandelions and buttercups gild all the lawn: the drowsy bee stumbles among the clover tops, and summer sweetens all to me. — James Russell Lowell

Fresh from the Garden

Eggplant, snap beans, green beans, summer squash. Plump tomatoes are spilling from the vine, but there are two words on my mind: melon season.

In one word: cantaloupe.

And while it’s fresh and abundant, consider some new ways to enjoy it.

Blend it with club soda and honey.

Salt and spice it with crushed peppercorn and sumac.

Toss it with arugula, fennel and oregano.

Make cool melon soup, or sweet-and-salty jam.

Nothing spells refreshing like chilled cubes of it after a hot day in the sun, but if you’re looking for savory, check out the below recipe from Epicurious.

Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad

(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 large cantaloupe, rind and seeds removed, flesh cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large English hothouse cucumber, sliced on a diagonal ½-inch thick

2 Fresno chiles, thinly sliced

1/2 cup unsalted, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped mint

Sumac (for serving)

Ingredient Info

Sumac is a tart, citrusy spice generally sold in ground form. It can be found at Middle Eastern markets, specialty foods stores and online.

Preparation

Whisk oil, vinegar, coriander, salt, pepper and cardamom in a large bowl. Add cantaloupe, cucumber and chiles, and toss to coat in dressing. Let sit, uncovered, 15 minutes.

To serve, add pumpkin seeds, cilantro and mint to salad and toss gently to combine. Top with sumac.

Lazy Days of Summer

The full buck moon rises on Tuesday, July 16, which, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, is a good day for pruning, mowing and weeding. But if R&R is more your speed, below are a few obscure holidays you might add to the calendar.

July 10: Pick Blueberries Day

July 17: Peach Ice Cream Day

July 20: Ice Cream Soda Day

July 22: Hammock Day

Happy Independence Day, friends. Happy, happy hot July.

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