Better late than never, right? Summer, that is, and all the foods with which we associate the season. Owing to the impact of late storms and fluctuating temperatures, local farmers’ most reliable summer crops are just now starting to fill market stalls and CSA boxes.
What does all of this mean for you, your kitchen, and your belly?

It’s time to take full advantage of the flavors of late summer by sourcing your goods close to home. Here is the insider’s scoop from your favorite local foodies, chefs, and farmers.

Melanie Plies at Backyard Bounty likes to add flowers—borage, calendula petals, amaranth leaves—to a salad of mixed greens. Her CSA shares include the colorful salad mixes, along with all kinds of beans, such as Romano, snap, and purple-speckled rattlesnake pole beans, great both fresh and dried. Prorated summer-only shares are still available, with the possibility of extending for the full season.

Green and dragon tongue beans
Green and dragon tongue beans

Feeling daring? Fry up a sunflower. “Just sauté the flower head face-down in a little oil,” Plies says. “So complex and delicious, [tastes] artichoke and floral, a limitless bitter. It feels very nutritious.”

At the Hollywood and Milwaukie farmers’ markets, try a seasonal blend of locally-brewed Lion Heart Kombucha, fresh from the tap, or sign up to take a home-brewing class. Kombucha is a great immune-booster to have on hand when the seasons change.

At the Wednesday night market at People’s Co-op, you’ll find Lyle Stanley of Gee Creek Farm pontificating about the importance of a wide variety of colorful vegetables, both in one’s own diet and grown as a political act, counter to the pressures of industrial agriculture.

“This is how I wage peace,” Stanley says, gesturing to the pile of leafy greens, roots, and whole grains behind him. His unique CSA model allows community members to choose produce directly from the market stall while still supplying the farm with the support it needs during seasonal instability.

lacinato kale
Lacinato kale

Bet you never thought of dark leafy greens as typical summer fare. Portland’s Culinary Workshop Founder and Coordinator Susana Holloway offers this fresh take on Portland’s unusual abundance of greens. Finely chop a bunch of lacinato kale, work in a little olive oil and lemon juice by hand, and let sit for at least an hour. Add salt to taste, and have a bite between batches of canning, pickling and preserving. Need a jump start? PCW can teach you to preserve berries and prepare simple chutneys, pickled beans, and even pickled cherries, which Holloway serves over vanilla ice cream. $65 nets you the basics in three late-season classes: Canning the Harvest (August 24), Pickles and Chutneys (August 28) and Glorious Grilling (August 27).

When you need a break, take a date and head over to In Good Taste in the Pearl, where there are still seats available for a local farmers' market dinner featuring the gifts of the late summer harvest. Simultaneously educational and luxurious, these monthly meals pair Oregon wines with seasonal dishes, taught by expert chefs.

Over at Hipcooks Portland, instructor Cheyenne Terbrueggen is still holding out for tomatoes, but while she’s waiting for them to come in, she’s enjoying the last of the late spring vegetables in her garden, like peas, carrots, and lettuces.

“It’s really important to learn to work with what you have in your backyard and what’s at the market, and that’s what we teach,” Terbrueggen says. Hipcooks classes teach participants basic techniques and recipe blueprints which they can then apply to a range of locally-available foods.

It's important to se what's available in your yard and at the market.
It’s really important to learn to work with what you have in your backyard and what’s at the market."

Classes fill up quickly, so sign up now for Cocktails 3: Get Infused! (August 23). Get a fresh take on summer drinks (basil-strawberry-prosecco smash, anyone?) and learn a variety of appetizers to pair with them. Also try Thrill of the Grill (August 30) or Healthy, Fresh, and Zingy (Sep 1).

One possible upside of this unpredictable summer is an extended berry-picking season, rolling into a long, warm autumn. Now is the time to sign up for a Grower’s Alliance CSA share from non-profit Grow Portland, with a limited number of fall shares available from late August through November. Choose from two pick-up locations: Mondays at Mercy Corps Northwest in Old Town and Thursdays at the Warehouse Cafe in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

“I can't go as far as to ‘expect’ anything from this summer, but I certainly have my fingers crossed!” says Grow Portland outreach coordinator Lauren Morse.

Local gardeners know what she means. In the backyard, watch for bolting lettuce as the weather heats up. It’s a good time to sow cresses, endives, and snow peas. Backyard Bounty’s Melanie Plies recommends planting a stand of tulsi (holy basil), known for its medicinal properties.

Thanks to urban farmer Jennifer Addis for her contributions to this story.

Which local fruits and veggies are you enjoying now, neighbors? Please share your fave recipes in the comment section.