If you love the odorous bulb – and don’t mind your house smelling like a salami for a few days – now is the time to head out to the shuk and snatch up braided ropes of fresh garlic. Or braid your own, or simply hang it up to dry in a shady, dry place. It will keep for at least 9 months. Think of all the delicious recipes there are with garlic – like our za’atar pesto.
Prices are about the lowest they’re going to go, so hurry to buy now, because garlic season will soon be over. And with a stash of dried local garlic, you can afford to ignore the bleached Chinese garlic in the supermarkets.
Fruit: Avocados are still going strong. Strawberries are wonderful now, with prices going down. Now really is the time to make strawberry ice cream and jam (recipe for strawberry jam below). Cantaloups, honeydews and watermelons are all excellent, just in time for hotter weather that approaches. Fresh green almonds in their fuzzy pods are now sold in the shuk. Crack their shells open and scoop out the milky, gel-like kernel. It’s a taste like no other, and doesn’t last long because the kernels begin hardening within a few days of harvest.
Loquats are still falling off trees in neighborhood gardens, as are oranges, clementines, grapefruit and pomelos. For those who don’t have those trees, look for the fruit in markets. Small, squat peaches just appeared, but prime peach (and apricot) season will come in the next weeks. Lemons are still abundant. Bananas are good, with reasonable prices. There are local apples and green pears, but they seem to have come from cold storage. There are plenty of flavorless imported apples.
Vegetables: Cauliflower heads are full, fat, and white right now with good prices. Broccoli, however, looks sad and not worth buying unless you chance upon a new crop. Fresh, green ful (fava) beans are in, as are string beans, broad Italian beans and wax beans. For some reason, all those fresh beans are still quite expensive, although in season and looking good. Root vegetables continue good: kohlrabi, beets, turnips, and red radishes. The exotic radishes such as daikon seem to be played out for now.
Cucumbers, zucchini, and corn are abundant and at good prices. Cabbages, both white and red, are very inexpensive right now – time to make saurkraut before the weather goes really hot. Artichokes are still available, but very much at the end of their season. All the nightshade vegetables are in and affordable: tomatoes, eggplants, and all the varieties of peppers. Fennel is in evidence and looking full and fat. Potatoes continue excellent, although the new-crop baby potatoes aren’t so new anymore.
Herbs: Are much the same as in March, with the exception of new za’atar (chop some up to top pita, as in our recipe), oregano, and savory. The herb vendors display the usual lettuces (romaine, iceberg, ruffled white and purple), Swiss chard, leeks, mushrooms, spinach, parsley, sorell, chives, wormwood, rocket, watercress, celery, parsley and green onions. Mint is especially big and beautiful now. Get a bunch of mint and put in cold water with a slice of lemon for a refreshing drink. You can also dry some for future teas, and put a few big sprigs in water to grow roots. Some markets carry fresh grape leaves now.
Forager’s notes: Local trees are full of citrus blossoms. Gather a small handful to flavor malabi or warm, sweetened milk. Plantain still hasn’t dried up. Wild oats are everywhere – pick the whole aerial part for a soothing tea, and to give to pet birds. Birds love pecking at wild oats, either fresh or dried.
You may find wild rocket (eruca sativa) for your salad. Capers have started to bloom – brave the thorns and pick a few buds that have opened just enough to show a white stripe. Place the bud in a little bowl of water and it will open into a beautiful white and purple flower in your home.
Wild hollyhocks are in glorious bloom: snip off a few leaves and flowers to dry as a cough-remedy tea for winter. Hollyhocks also grow easily from seed, so if you see any dry brown seed capsules, take a couple and plant them in your garden or in pots.
Recipes starring Middle-Eastern produce in season now:
Photo of fresh garlic by Miriam Kresh.