Each August morning, Foggy Ridge earns its name. Mist rises from Rock House Creek below the Old Orchard, cloaking Carrie’s Hill and obscuring our view of Buffalo Mountain. Early morning sun hits the orchard and Chuck’s vegetable garden, but fog lingers on our ridge until breakfast dishes are done. I love to watch the mist float through what our neighbors call the “holler”, then boil over the North Pasture like gray surf.
When the fog disappears, and unfiltered morning sun hits the stone patio, I’m reminded of August’s weight—even at 3000 feet elevation, the late summer air is heavy with moisture. Apples full of sugar pull limbs close to the ground and the tomato trellis strains with buckets of Sun Gold and Brandywine. And then there is zucchini. Twelve pounds this morning alone, and that’s being conservative about harvesting those lovely ridged Costada Romanesca. This squash from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a winner, dense and meaty with a delicate squash flavor. I haul cucumbers, purple pole beans and yellow wax beans and to the kitchen, then think about friends who might use this bounty. But all our friends have gardens and in this fecund month they lock the car when visiting, to avoid a spare bushel of something in the back seat.
Just last month our apples were hard and green with white immature seeds. In late August only Hewe’s Crab and Graniwinkle are ripe, but it takes just a glance at bent limbs to see that sugar levels are increasing. Roxbury Russett outside my Cider House office is fat and rusty. Even this stiff branched tree leans toward the orchard floor in August.
Last night a thunderstorm cooled my evening patio time so much that I fetched a sweater. But the August air never lightened, and I breathed summer weight while reading Andrea Reusing’s Cooking in the Moment, a lovely read full of wisdom, joy and creativity. Andrea champions local food, true flavor and we’re happy to say, cider, at her Chapel Hill restaurant, The Lantern. I’ll never forget the pile of burgundy Arkansas Black apples in her restaurant window that greeted my cider delivery last fall.
But for now, I’ll lighten this heavy month with Andrea’s heirloom tomato salad—she suggests salting tomatoes tomatoes to release their juice and heighten distinctive flavors. Tonight my plate will be a painting with pale yellow Lemon Drop, orange Sun Gold, dark Cherokee Red, yellow Mr. Stripey and nearly pink German Johnson. I’ll drizzle a little olive oil and sop salty tomato juice with a thick slice of bread from Rob at Chicken Bridge Bakery. I feel a cool breeze already.