July Almanac

By Ash Alder

Trumpet creeper is blooming.

In the kitchen, tea is steeping on the stovetop — sugar bowl on the table — and Papa’s shucking sweet corn on the front porch. 

July is sensuous, flavorful, dreamy. 

Dahlias and daisies. Fried squash blossoms. Beach trips and sunburns and roadside stands. 

Pull over.

Load up on pickled okra. Homemade salsas and jams. Baskets of plump, juicy peaches.

“July makes me think of dolphin-diving into the soul-quenching ocean,” says a friend and self-proclaimed “Magical Nomad” who has created a life of RV adventures with her husband and their longhaired Jack. “Hiking in damp forests, finding secret waterfalls for skinny-dipping . . .”

And watermelon.

“Something about eating watermelon in the summer reminds me we can really be carefree . . . like children.”


Pick blueberries.

Make ice cream.

Visit the old tire swing.

And as the bullfrog moans into the balmy night, dance with the fireflies.

“It is the chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented.”   – Mark Twain from Puddinhead Wilson

Taste of Summer   

How exciting it was to see that first-ever watermelon carried inside like a newborn, thick green skin cut open to reveal juicy bright pink fruit. Was it Fourth of July? My first piece was sliced like pie. And who told me a watermelon would grow inside my belly if I swallowed a seed? Grandma? I think I cried. The rind on my plate resembled a smile.

Seed-spitting was a thing. Each cousin had a cup of them, lined up across the lawn, and gave the sport their best effort until the sparklers came out.

Tomorrow: cubed watermelon, served cool, midday.

Yes, this is what they eat in heaven.

Get You a Ripe One

Cucumber salad, pickled melon, cantaloupe gazpacho — all well and good. But no July picnic is complete without homegrown you-know-whats. 

Guy Clark surely knew.

He knew what to pair them with, too.

Eat ’em with eggs, eat ’em with gravy
Eat ’em with beans, pinto or navy
Put ’em on the side, put ’em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle . . .

Big and Better Boys. Brandywines. German Johnsons. Early Girls.

All well and good.

And they taste even better than their names.

Don’t get me started on Cherokee Purples unless you’re going to slice one up.

In the Garden

Not too late to plant squash, corn or snap beans, plus heat-loving herbs like basil, thyme and sage. If you’re gardening by the lunar cycle, plant annual flowers and aboveground crops July 13–26, while the moon is waxing. The Full Buck Moon falls on Friday, July 27. Pop flowering bulbs such as gladiolus and butterfly lily into the earth at the end of the month.

Along the river’s summer walk,
The withered tufts of asters nod;
And trembles on its arid stalk
the hoar plum of the golden-rod.

– John Greenleaf Whittier

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