Magazine article Russian Life

Summer on the Amur

Magazine article Russian Life

Summer on the Amur

Article excerpt

THE AMUR OBLAST is sufficiently large that there are great climatological differences between its northern and southern regions. As a result, there are also certain agricultural differences that have an effect on summer dacha life. For instance, when I was growing up in the North, I never saw strawberries, peaches or cherries being cultivated on garden plots. Not that they did not exist, but if they did, I did not see them, and I got around.

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On the other hand, down south, where I live now (Blagoveshchensk), I have never seen lingonberries {brusniki). This is a very tasty and beneficial berry, but it only grows up north, where it is gathered in the early fall.

One of the first signs that summer has come to the dacha is the arrival of honeysuckle berries, which normally appear in the middle or end of June.'" They are gathered in the wild up north (which is the case with most berries there; rarely did I see berries planted in gardens), but often planted in dacha gardens here down south.

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As with all other berries we collect during the summer, honeysuckle are used to make jellies, jams, and to fill pies or just be canned for the winter.

After the honeysuckle, in June we also see strawberries, both cultivated and wild, and the first carrots.

July is when the berries really start to come in, however, including currants, raspberries, cherries, and bird cherries (cheremukba). We also see our first onslaught of vegetables, with cabbage and the first tomatoes.

August is the most bountiful month (and the most active one at the dacha). Potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and beets all ripen, and the apricots turn their succulent color of orange.

In September, the final fruits of the harvest are gathered; more potatoes, pears, and apples.

I suspect that dacha culture in Amur Oblast differs little from that across the rest of Russia. We go there to rest and breathe the country air, and we end up working: weeding, harvesting, repairing. But we also thoroughly enjoy the fruits of our labor, namely fresh, simple vegetable and fruit salads, tasty okroshka and, of course that dacha standby, shashlik. …

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