Mention harvest celebrations and most people think of pumpkins and haystacks, windfall apples scattered under a tree, a floating harvest moon and the chill that marks the end of the fall season and the coming of winter.
Which is all very well, but there are earlier harvests which should be celebrated. Right this minute tomato plants are plunking out tomatoes like slot machines gone berserk and squash, no observer of the rights of territory, has grown through rows of carrots, marched over beets and begun to climb the withering stalks of corn.
Having recently returned from the country where "cukes," as they are called at every wayside stand, were 5 cents apiece, corn 11 cents an ear and zucchini was given away by gardeners who had wooed the plant not wisely but too well, it came as a shock to discover that at area supermarkets, cucumbers were still 3 for $1 and green peppers 50 cents apiece. The seasonal feast is not being shared.
This, therefore,is a call to all tillers of the soil to invite their less fortunate friends -- those who have no garden -- to a harvest party. One host, knowing the best dish he could offer his guests was one he'd grown himself, recently gave a dinner party where the waiters circled the table with silver trays, dispensing ears of corn. Another invited everyone to a dinner of homemade tomato soup and zucchini bread.
The owner of a prolific fig tree would endear herself to her friends by inviting them over for cocktails and serving the figs wrapped in thin slices of prosciutto. Those endless tomatoes make a lovely salad sliced thin, arranged with alternating slices of mozzarella cheese, and sprinkled with salt, pepper and fresh basil. Or give a picnic lunch and serve tomato sandwiches on toasted whole wheat bread with bowls of chopped fresh herbs on the side and a salad of unwaxed, sliced cucumbers.
The rambling squash can be corraled and baked with tomato sauce sprinkled with grated cheese. Or if you have grown spaghetti squash, toss it with butter and cheese, chunks of tomato, and eggplant, diced and sauteed in a garlicky olive oil. Add bread sticks and a bottle of Italian wine and give your guests 10 minutes to discover it isn't pasta.
It doesn't matter if the meal from the garden suffers a serious imbalance. The flavor makes up for it. One of the nicest lunches I've ever been offered was a large bowl of carrots, dug straight out of the ground, steamed until they were just tender, and served simply with butter, salt and pepper.