What’s in season for late-August cooking?

When it comes to which seasons have the best products in season, late August could be the best. I’ve been pulling everything out of the garden, from pears and plums to kale, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and the season isn’t even done yet. So as you’re planning your summer-end parties at the cottage, make sure you’re visiting the local farmers market for a multitude of great food.

Vine-ripened tomatoes

Vine-ripened tomatoes are out in plenty right now and there are some beautiful varieties of heirloom and heritage tomatoes. With ripe tomatoes, you have to do very little to make them shine on a dinner or lunch table. A drizzle of quality olive oil with some fresh ground pepper and sea salt on top of fresh-cut tomatoes is a great simple salad.

Peppers of all colours

I was surprised to see beautiful hot peppers in baskets at the Powell River open-air market last weekend. The farmer had everything from fresh cayenne peppers to sweeter, small green peppers. If you like heat, one simple way to enjoy hot peppers is by blistering them on the grill and finishing them with a touch of sea salt. You and your guests can snack on these while the main dishes are being wrapped up.

Fresh corn for the grill

When I was a kid, my family anxiously awaited the arrival of corn season. Growing up on Vancouver Island’s Saanich Peninsula, I was fortunate to have easy access to many farms that had great crops of corn. It’s at its best during this time of the season, and simple preparation will highlight its flavour. If you’re grilling, get your corn ready by soaking it in cold water, husks and all. The reason you’re soaking the husks and corn is because you’ll put it on the grill, and the water in the husks will steam the corn right on the barbecue. But before you put the corn on the grill, pull the husks back and tuck some hunks of butter around the corn. You can even season your butter with lime zest and jalapeno or any other combination that might match your meal. Cover the corn with the husks, and tie them together at the top with either a piece of the husk or butcher’s twine.

West Coast halibut

If you’re on the West Coast, one of the best local products is coming into season. Beautiful halibut is a real treat during the late summer, and like all great food at the end of the summer, it needs very little to taste good. Season the halibut with salt and pepper, and sear it in a hot cast iron pan. Serve it with a squeeze of lemon and enjoy.

Sweet peaches and plums

For sweet treats, peaches and plums are perfect in late August. Include them in a cobbler or crisp, or if you’re feeling bold, halve the peaches and pit them. Place them on a hot barbecue and let the sugars caramelize. Once you see some nice colour and char marks on the peach, remove it and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Juicy blackberries

Blackberries are also all over the place at this time of the year, and you don’t have to buy them in the store. If you know a good blackberry patch, simply put on some pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and some closed toe shoes and head out with a bucket. Blackberries are easy to freeze, make into jam, or eat by the handful.

Zucchini for pasta

You might be getting sick of zucchini at this point in the season, but there will still be plenty available for a few more weeks. One of the newer ways to enjoy zucchini is as a gluten-free vegetarian option for pasta. There are two tools you might want to have on hand if you’re interested in making pasta with your abundant summer squash. One is known as a spirule, which allows you to make big long strands of zucchini that can be used as a substitute for pasta or in a salad. You can also freeze the strands for future use. If you don’t have a spirule, you can also use a mandolin (not the instrument), which allows you to cut long thing strips of zucchini. And if you don’t have that either, a vegetable peeler will do almost the same thing. One thing to note is that if you decide to cook your “zucchini pasta,” you won’t want to cook it for long or else you’ll end up with a mushy mess.

Megan Cole is an award-winning Victoria, B.C.–based journalist and freelance writer. She most enjoys writing about food and music, and when she isn’t behind a keyboard or camera, you can find her in the kitchen or at a concert. Visit her blog at victoriaculinaryunderground.wordpress.com.