In summer life slows down giving us an opportunity to enjoy the warm long days. The sun shines brightly from early morning to late evening although it seldom gets too hot. We often dine on the terrace, which I built the first year we were here. Made of old bricks that were stacked in the courtyard, the terrace has now aged with time, covered in places by green moss. Our meals are inspired by what we find in our vegetable garden. We like freshwater trout or chicken grilled over hardwood coals and lots of vegetables and green salads. To accompany a meal we always serve a fresh cool wine from our cellar or local beer. Lunch is our main meal of the day. We often invite friends to join us for an afternoon al fresco in our garden. Our dinners are very simple and light. We like Caprese a salad prepared with mozzarella and garden tomatoes, prosciutto with fresh melon, cold soups or a variety of cheese with fresh fruit. We make simple pasta dishes such as spaghetti with pesto or penne with olive oil, garlic and hot chilli peppers.
Of course the vegetables and fruit in summer are spectacular. I buy glossy eggplants, hot red peppers and sweet summer melons, which have just arrived from the blazing Mediterranean regions of Italy or Spain, in the market on Saturday morning. In the early morning I gather from our garden; zucchini and summer squash, which are delicious grilled or tossed in salads, Yellow red and green bell peppers, a variety of green-leafed lettuce, kohlrabi, snap beans and green peas. Garlic, scallions, leeks, and fresh basil become the main seasoning for summer dishes, lightly sauteed in extra virgin olive oil or served fresh in garden salads. Just before lunch I go back to the garden to pick ripe red tomatoes that have been warmed by the sun. Plums, pears, apricots and peaches are ripe on our trees, grapes hang heavily on the vine and summers berries, which we make into cakes, tarts and compote, are all ready to be picked.
We start foraging for mushrooms in the forest near our house after every rain. The mushrooms are dried or sauteed and frozen for the winter months. Foraging for mushrooms is a popular past-time for most Czechs. Entire families go to the woods in search of fungi. Children are taught at a very young age to recognize editable species. There are many editable mushrooms that grow here, making a forage in the forest a fun adventure.
Towards the end of summer the pace picks up when the garden is at its peak as the canning season begins. Preserving food has always been a tradition in my family. Large pots are brought out from storage, jars are cleaned and sterilized, vegetables and fruit are gathered, washed and readied for canning. Then the process continues day after day until there are rows and rows of pickles, vegetables, jam, jelly and compote lined up on our cellar shelves. I get a great satisfaction when the summer is over and I can see the reward of our labor stored underground for winter.