Tomatoes, Butterbeans, Corn and Peaches– All Waiting For Me At Pickett’s Harbor Farm Market

by: Marlene email

We love the Pickett’s Harbor Farm Market just south of Cape Charles, Virginia anytime but this year especially.  The Eastern Shore of Virginia has lovely rich, loamy soils and we always plant a decent sized garden  but this year our  garden got off  to a very rocky start.    Late, late, late getting it in and then short of time to tend it.  On top of all that, the black filter cloth we always put down in long rows over the entire garden space to eliminate most of the weeding  turned out to be dark grey and worthless.  The weeds grew underneath it  like, well, weeds and we ended up tilling the whole thing under, okra included,  and  just started over again.  So now we have a second-time-around  garden,  started in late June when anybody with a lick of sense knows that a really successful garden needs to be planted at least by the end of April.

Stage right,  enter  Pickett’s Harbor Farm market,  now the star for obtaining our fresh produce for cooking wonderful only-in-the-summer  meals.   Because no self-respecting person who loves Southern Cooking  can do without the essential fresh ingredients for same. Summertime cooking  calls for, no actually demands,  fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, from one’s own garden or at least grown locally,  red globes of  flavor, thick slices of which grace the dinner table almost every summer’s eve.   And butter beans,  little teeney cousins of  the big green or speckled limas,  sweet,  melt-in-the-mouth, one of my husband’s favorite summer treats, so very, very much better fresh than frozen.    And corn, fresh sweet corn,  Silver Queen variety our favorite.  Who can say enough about luscious sweet corn, steamed and eaten fresh off the cob, accompanied only by sweet cream butter, pepper and a little salt, or salt substitute as the case might be.    Or grilled, slathered with lime butter or Mexican style crema.  (  However, the South certainly doesn’t have a lock on a love of sweet corn.  If you really want to hear someone wax truly elequently  about the marvels of  fresh corn,  just listen to an NPR  Garrison Keillor “Prarie Home Companion” show in summer.  Inevitably,  part of  his stellar shows  in summer will be devoted to enumerating the wonders of  Minnosota’s  sweet corn, picked from the garden and shucked just minutes before popping it into its steam bath. )

But  maybe best of all is the delectable dish you achieve by combining  those marvelous three — homegrown tomatoes, fresh butter beans and fresh sweet corn, the  Three  Amigos of  Summertime Southern Cooking.   Succotash, one of summer’s greatest ever veggie combinations !  However, for this dish to be at its zenith,  it is essential to milk the corn.  For those who have never milked corn  (let alone a cow),  the procedure goes like so:  First, put on an apron. ( This is fundamentally important.  Trust me,  you’ll see why once you get started. )  Next, make sure you have removed absolutely all the silk from the shucked corn ear because nothing spoils a heavenly bite of succotash more than having to pull  strands of corn silk from one’s mouth.   Then,  with a sharp paring knife,  gently slice down the cob, cutting off the top half of the kernels, turning  until you’ve done the entire cob.  This is best done in a deep bowl, with the cob’s  butt end pointed downwards and resting against the bottom of the bowl.  Now for the milking– take a  spoon and run it down the cut kernels,  pushing firmly against the cob, to get all the rest of the corn and the corn milk.  Do this twice to make sure you’ve gotten every drop  that  cob has to give.  This is a bit messy and I always put the bowl into the kitchen sink while I’m cutting  and milking,  the better to keep most of the  flying bits of corn off the apron and confined to the sink for easy clean-up.  Everybody prepares  their succotash according to a  family tradition. I like to cook the butter beans with a small bit of smoked ham or bacon until almost done, then add very ripe tomatoes coarsely chopped,  a little savory or basil  and then the corn, proportions for the dish being about 50% butter beans, 20% tomato, 30% corn.   Cook until  mouth-meltingly tender, maybe a bit of butter added at the end, pepper and salt to taste.   Sublime, and when served with classic Southern fried chicken, a triumph !

But a post on Pickett’s Harbor Farm’s summer produce  would definitely not be complete without an Ode to Peaches.  Not the half green, rot before they ripen,  little things found in  the grocery store.  No, I’m talking about the sweet, juicy beauties grown right there on the farm,  rows and rows of peach trees, laden with fruit, beautiful  peaches slowly ripening,  glistening in the sun, to be picked only when completely ready.  And the aroma !   Does anything smell sweeter,  more appealing,  than a basket of ripe red peaches, their tantalizing deliciousness just wafting upward ?   I think not.  All winter and all spring, I wait for peaches.  And when they finally come in, about the beginning of July,  we make the first of many  “peach runs”.  Eaten whole with juice dripping down the hand, swimming in ice cold milk atop breakfast cereal, sliced in a dish with vanilla Haagen Dazs and a drizzle of brandy, served over shortcake and topped with raspberries and whipped cream, made into a cobbler with a few fresh blueberries,  layered in a deep-dish peach custard pie— let me count the ways that our family loves the fabulous peaches, Sugar Baby watermelons,  juicy cantalopes and all the other produce expertly  grown by the Nottingham family– Tammy,  W.T. , Josh and the rest of the  gang.   We  love you guys,  thanks so much,  summer just wouldn’t be the same without Pickett’s Harbor Farm Market !    ( ) (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

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