It was a hot July, and August is not far behind. Several experts suggest that this has been a year of extremes. Our winter was long and cold, and seemed like spring would never come. Then it went from winter almost directly into summer - a hot one with July one of the hottest on record.
Now that we are into August, we need to enjoy the summer because it is fast fading into fall. Actually, July and August are good months in many ways. One of those is the fresh fruits and vegetables that are on the market.
Locally grown sweet corn is available, and it is one of those summer treats that is hard to beat. Fresh-picked from local growers is best, because the corn is highest in sugar when it is right off the stalk. Or, if it can be iced, that slows down the conversion of sugar to starch.
Biting into a fresh-picked ear of sweet corn is a treat not found any other time of the year. We can buy it other times, but it may have been picked several days before and lost most of its sugar content.
Sweet corn was first grown by the Mayan and Aztec Indians about a thousand years ago. From there, it was carried up to America and cultivated by local Indians, with the Iroquois tribe one of the first to grow it.
Sweet corn is a natural mutation of early maize with a high sugar content. It is nature's form of biotechnology.
Our European ancestors didn't know sweet corn until Columbus came to this country. He got seed from the Indians and took it back to Europe.
Fresh peaches are also another great summer treat on the market. Peaches from the south were on the market in late July and early August, with local peaches coming in now.
At one time, peaches were a major fruit crop in our area. But hard freezes back in the 1950s and again in about 1993 killed many of the trees. Since the 1970s, there has been some re-growth of the crop, especially in Mahoning and Columbiana counties. There are also some in Ashtabula and Lake counties, major growing areas until the mid-1950s.
To enjoy a luscious bowl of fresh peaches or a warm, just-baked peach cobbler is another one of those summer treats. Or slice some on a bowl of cereal.
New apples are soon coming into local orchards. Take time to enjoy a bowl of applesauce or fresh-baked apple pie. Top it off with a scoop of ice cream, and that is like living in luxury. One of my apple-growing friends said the early yellow transparent variety will be ready this week. This variety doesn't keep very well, but it makes applesauce that can't be beat.
The grower was happy because they have an excellent crop this year.
Fresh vegetables also have been available for some time now. Our little garden has given us more summer squash and cucumbers that we can eat, so we shared with neighbors. Our tomatoes have had a lot of blossom end rot, but we have had enough to enjoy and share a few. We don't have room for a big garden but really enjoy what we have.
My 1865 book has some interesting recipes that I'd like to share using apples as well as green sweet corn.
So it has not been easy to endure the heat, and like many folks, we have some air conditioning to help us live more comfortably. We are thankful for that technology.
Parker grew up in Trumbull county and is an independent writer for the Tribune.