September is such a beautiful transition month. It is still summer, but there are hints of fall in the air, as the days are getting shorter and shorter. We have recently experienced a wonderfully bright Harvest Moon. All of these things remind us that the seasons are about the change.
Late summer is a wonderful culinary time for fruits and vegetables in North Carolina. Many local fruits and vegetables are perfect for transitional recipes to be enjoyed as we celebrate the passing of summer and look forward to the cooler months ahead.
Greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and collards can be enjoyed steamed, sautéed or in salads or casseroles. Hot chilis are finishing their growing season, just in time as our traditional grilling season comes to a close, and BBQs are adorned with fired roasted salsas. Local North Carolina sweet Muscadine grapes are beginning to hang from the vine, waiting to be transformed into jelly or homemade wine. Tomatoes are making their final farewell, as we all scamper to unveil the best way to preserve their fresh goodness until next year when we crave nothing but a vine-ripened sandwich with mayonnaise. September brings a close to stone fruit season, where the last cobblers and feelings of peach fuzz against our lips are held as a memory as to why we love the orchards so much.
A culinary shift occurs during this time of year. During the warmer months, we prepare “lighter” and “cooler” foods, or relocate our kitchens outside to preparing more recipes on grills and in outdoor ovens. September reminds us that cooler days are approaching and thus, we turn our focus and desires toward more comforting foods and dishes that will keep us warm and satisfied. Winter squashes, pumpkins, parsnips, and celery are the next good vegetables that grow in North Carolina.
So a hearty “thank you” goes out to the month of September. Thank you for being a time of reflection. A time where we can reflect on the juiciness of the tomato sandwich you helped provide and the wonderful memories from the summer months of grilling vegetable and sharing potato salad outdoors with our loved ones. Thank you for providing us with hints of cooler weather so that we can look forward to all of the fabulous fall bounty that is yet to come.