JILL SEVERN's gardening column

Pleasures of the season


This week’s changeable weather sure felt like the end of summer, regardless of what the calendar says. (It says fall begins on September 22.) But there may be a brief summer sequel or two.

There ought to be a name for this little transitional season,* which is filled with special pleasures worth our full attention:

  • People who grow dahlias are having a peak experience.  If you doubt this, go look at the flower stands in the Olympia Farmers Market – or probably in any local farmers market. Dahlias have an amazing array of colors and forms. For the math-minded, there are a lot of Fibonacci sequences to stare at too.
  • Fresh tomatoes are better than Christmas. Tis the season for Caprese salads: A layer of fresh lettuce, a slab of fresh mozzarella, a thick slice of tomato so fresh it’s still warm from the sun, a super thin layer of mozzarella, and a scattering of fresh, barely chopped basil leaves. Drizzle it with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar, add some salt and pepper. Heaven in your mouth.
  • Sleep is blissfully comfortable. Nights are pleasantly chilly, and noisy fans are no longer necessary.
  • Cooler weather is prolonging the season of bloom.  The hot sun is not making flowers bloom and wither so quickly. It was so hot earlier this summer that my lilies came and went in about three weeks; in cooler weather, cosmos, asters and all those dahlias will be blooming longer.
  • Peaches are divine but expensive, and blackberries are free for the picking. And unlike last year, stores still have canning jars.
  • Fresh local corn is here, and lucky you if you grew your own. And eggplant, which layers so well in a baking dish with big slices of tomato and zucchini. Add layers of ricotta and parmesan to make a vegetarian lasagna. Or if you skip the pasta, you might call it eggplant parmesan plus. You could also add fresh garlic and onions, and replace the pasta with leaves of collard greens, swiss chard or kale.
  • Weeds are growing more slowly. This means we can spend more time cooking, eating and relaxing.
  • We are actually looking forward to rain, which is not something we do very often. And this hot, dry summer – and the endless wildfires – have heightened our sense of good fortune for living on the rainy side of the mountains.
  • Soon – on September 6-8 – Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, will be celebrated. It makes sense to me to celebrate a new year in early fall, when seeds for the next growing season have ripened. It’s kind of a Jewish spiritual back-to-school moment. It is a time for awe, repentance and renewal, all culminating in a new beginning with new hopes. After 18 months of a pandemic, we all need that.

*If you think of one, please email me.

Jill Severn writes from her home in Olympia, where she grows vegetables, flowers and a small flock of chickens. She loves conversation among gardeners. Start one by emailing her at jill@theJOLTnews.com


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