Whatever you choose to call it, now is the time to celebrate the shortest night of the year, and the longest days, and the burgeoning fields and gardens. There are many, though, that at this time will not be celebrating, because of the destruction of their fields and gardens and homes through floods, drought, or some other catastrophe exacerbated by global warming, mono-culture agriculture, destruction of wetlands and flood plains, or Mother Nature just fighting back. So we might also take this time of year to reflect on our lives in relation to the world around us and what we can do about the problems we see.
Treehugger has posted a few suggestions for observing this time of year; which you can read about here. They also have suggestions on greening your life, as well as environmental news; I recommend them as well as Grist for great reads on being green. Mother Earth News, the “original guide for living wisely”, has a post here on how to help the Midwestern flood victims. At all of these and many other places online, not only can you learn about greening your life (and possibly life as we know it), you can also glean tips for saving money, becoming healthier, reducing waste and chemicals, and maybe score some great recipes into the bargain.
As I’ve talked about before, one of the major ways you can achieve all of the above-mentioned goodies is by cutting meat out of your diet, in particular red meat, or at least reducing it substantially. We have also cut out chicken and have changed our fish-eating habits based on evidence that some types of fish have been drastically over-fished and that the “farm-raised” ones are as full of chemicals and hormones as feedlot cows (salmon is an example of both of these categories; natural populations are dwindling and the farm-raised ones, just like feedlot cows, are being fed corn which is not their natural diet and so they must be fed antibiotics and hormones to help them stay alive until they are big enough to kill).
This brings us back to the celebration of the Summer Solstice, or Litha, the festival of enjoying the summer sun and warmth, and sharing the abundance of the fruits (and vegetables!) of our labors. So for my part, I’ll share with you a few meatless ways to partake of your garden’s produce (or your local farmer’s market, or even your grocery stores’)…
For Father’s Day, we were going to my dad’s for a covered dish/ barbeque and I decided to bring something based on what was available in our garden on the day of the gathering. The day before, I dug some red potatoes from the four hills we have of them, and cut a zucchini squash and a yellow squash. We have bunches of lemon balm pretty much all over the yard, so with all this mind (and in hand), I made a garden potato salad: first, I cut the potatoes into chunks and steamed them until just tender, then I cut the squash into chunks and steamed them till just tender along with some chopped onions. All of these I rinsed in cold water to stop them from cooking after they were done steaming. Then I combined them all together along with handfuls of chopped lemon balm, some lemon pepper seasoning, some chopped garlic and sour cream, and put it into the refirgerator to let the flavors “marry”. Later my husband added dry mustard, garlic powder and paprika. If we had been having this at home as a meal, I probably would have added some steamed greens as the “side” dish, and that would have been our entire meal.
Later in the week, I took more zucchini and yellow squash, steamed them and combined them with couscous, chopped roasted red peppers, some leftover alfredo sauce and parmesan cheese in a casserole, seasoned to taste with lemon pepper, garlic and coarse salt. This morning, our burgeoning basil plants needed cutting, so I cut a large basket full and made three batches of pesto (pine nuts, garlic, basil leaves, parmesan cheese, lemon pepper season and garlic powder) and tied two handfuls together to hang and dry. I don’t add olive oil to my pesto while I’m making it because it tends to “cook” in the food processor as you are whirring the ingredients around, and I think it keeps longer without it. I put my pesto into tight-lidded jars, label and date them, and keep them in the freezer till I’m ready to use them, except for one jar I keep in the fridge for quick access. I add the olive oil when I use the pesto; for example, when I put some on my salad, I pour a little olive oil over it and stir it around in my salad. Same with pasta: cook your pasta, drizzle olive oil on it, then sprinkle on the pesto. This is particularly good when making a primavera (spring) pasta: another chance to pick and choose whatever veggies you want in your dish, steam them separately or cook them right in with your pasta, drain, season with pesto and parmesan cheese and there’s a complete meal.
Now get out there and enjoy the Mid-Summer Litha and/or Solstice, whatever you choose to call it and however you choose to celebrate it.