Summer in April

We always have a little heat wave in April, getting us ready for the real heat yet to come. My sweat glands (and attitude) have not adjusted, so by golly, when it hit 90 here yesterday, the air conditioning went on. And it's supposed to be hotter by the end of this week. Around this time, I start wondering; when is the neighborhood pool opening?

Since it feels like summer, some summer projects are in order. First up, sweet potato slips. I checked my records from last year, and it looks like I started this in late April, and they were ready to put in the ground by late May. It's easy to do; just pick out some organic SP's at your local market (they must be organic, as conventional SP's are sprayed to stop them from sprouting), cut them in half, and set them cut side down in a shallow dish of water, in a sunny spot. Add water as needed throughout the weeks. When they sprout on top and on bottom, it's time to plant!

I had very good luck with my SP's last year until the deer ate them. Sigh. Well, this weekend we start with the 'raising the fence' project, so that should take care of the problem. More on that later.

I have a huge amount of cilantro in the garden, and even after advertising it to neighbors, co-workers, friends, random strangers on the street - there's still a lot of it. And the herb spiral is fit to bursting with sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sorrel, and mint. So I went searching for a way to preserve fresh herbs. I ended up trying something like a pesto, by which I mean I blended a lot of herbs with a little bit of oil, then put the puree in ice cube trays to freeze, then decanted them into a ziploc to keep in the freezer.

And then today, on the Living Homegrown website, I saw this article about making herb concentrate. It's basically the same idea, except stored in jars. I'm so glad to know that I can preserve this fresh summer flavor for all year! (These cubes, or jars, will last a year in the freezer.)

When it's this hot, we get really sweaty running after kids all day at work, and we all desperately want an iced coffee as a pick-me-up. I finally got around to making cold brew to take to my co-workers, and it was a huge hit. Much richer, much more flavorful, no bitterness, and with simple syrup and cream it was a real treat. (It's also much stronger, so I might be making it with extra water next time. And we're all used to strong coffee, here - I was surprised how strong this was - so if you prefer a lighter coffee, adjust your ratios.)

So here's how you do it: Put 10 cups of cold water in a pitcher, along with 12 oz ground French Roast (next time I am going to use a ratio of one cup of water to one ounce of coffee and see if that makes it a little less strong). Stir and let sit overnight. In the morning, drain through cheesecloth and store in a pitcher (or in a Mason jar, as I did). That's it! Make sure to put those coffee grounds in your compost!

It is SO GOOD. This is going to be a weekend staple for me at home, for sure. I just might need to make it decaf, because I'll be drinking it all day long. Oh - and the simple syrup really makes it good - just heat up a cup of sugar to a cup of water on low heat until the sugar dissolves - that's simple syrup. It mixes more easily into the cold coffee. And use plenty of ice! Enjoy!