For a sweater-loving Brit like me, the summer heat in this part of Germany can be unbearable. Give me hot, dry weather on a Cretan beach any day of the week, but a sticky 38 degrees in an un-airconditioned, sun-facing office in Mainz is rather harder to endure. The dramatic thunderstorms that break the hot days up here usually do very little to relieve the stifling humidity, but the combination of intense sun and heavy rain in the right measures seems to do wonders for growing late summer fruit. There are huge piles of stone fruits stacked up at market stalls all over this region this month, and mounds of berries and plums – as well as figs in the Pfalz. My diet is largely fruit-based at this time of year, and with that in mind, here are some sweet and savoury recommendations for what to eat in August.
Hands up who doesn’t love a big juicy peach (Pfirsich)? They’re so good fresh that it took me a very long time to discover that cooking, baking or simply combining them, raw, with other ingredients can be very worthwhile too. On my list to make are:
(And if you’d like to keep some for later, how about preserving them: honey bourbon canned peaches sound pretty good to me.)
Nectarines (Nektarinen) have a very different skin, flesh and flavour to peaches, but I use them interchangeably in my go-to stone fruit dessert: halved, topped with a crumbly mix of butter, sugar and almonds and baked then served with a honeyed sour cream. With the next batch of nectarines I get my hands on, however, I’d like to try:
I’ve never experimented with greengages (Renekloden). In England, as a child, I would eat them straight from the prolific greengage tree in our garden, and at the end of the summer my mum would make vast quantities of chutney and jams that we’d spread over just about anything we could get our hands on. But there are generous heaps of the plump, yellowy-green stone fruits on offer at the market in August, so I’m planning to have a go at:
I know, I know: tomatoes (Tomaten) are on supermarket shelves 365 days a year. But those pale, plastic-bound fruits taste like water (at best), and there’s no more glorious sight or taste than the ones that form a stunning rainbow on my favourite veg stall each summer (Gärtnerei Schäfer at Wiesbaden’s twice-weekly market, if you’re taking notes). And once you’ve had a really good tomato, there’s no going back (do you remember where you were the first time you had one?). I buy them in every size, shape and colour and keep them in a bowl in the kitchen (you should never store tomatoes in the fridge), and grab a handful of red and yellow cocktail ones each time I go past. If they ever make it to a plate, this is how I like my tomatoes:
(Bonus tomato tip: one of my favorite tomato recipes any time of year is Diana Henry’s Harissa tomatoes with dukkah-crumbed eggs: roasting those pale watery fruits with a bit of sugar and Harissa does them the world of good.)
Blink and you’ll miss mirabelle (Mirabelle) season, so grab yourself a little wooden crate of the little deep yellow plums as soon as you see them, and get stuck in quick. These small, intensely-flavored fruits are grown across the south-west of Germany and come in two types: very small, soft, yellow ones good for jam-making, cooking and turning into booze (generally wine or brandy), and the slightly larger, harder sort that have soft red spots, which are the sweeter, tastier ones to eat fresh. Some of the best-loved recipes for using up the sudden seasonal mirabelle glut include:
★ a classic (and gluten-free) French mirabelle and almond frangipane tart,
★ filet of pork with a white wine and mirabelle sauce, or
★ a mirabelle preserve.
I’ve never seen larger, plumper blackberries (Brombeeren) than the ones I pick up from the market at this time of year. They’re fabulous plucked one by one straight out of their punnet or brown paper bag, most likely leaving streaks of purple juice running down your chin, but I prefer them cooked – baked with apples in a crumble, or turned into jam. I’ve not been terribly creative with them until now, but do have my eye on trying:
★ Stevie Parle’s blackberry and port trifle,
★ Emma’s blackberry cakes with lemon mascarpone icing, and
★ David Tanis’ five spice duck with blackberries.