On June 6th the solar term of Grain in Ear began. China is divided by climate into a wheat growing north and a rice growing south. At this time in the north the wheat becomes ripe and in the south the summer planting starts. Chinese farmers are also now planting a lot of corn, most of which is fed to livestock. Many more Chinese are eating meat now than in the past. So corn is now ripening in much of China now as well. Due to our cool weather so far we may very well see corn later than usual this year uless it is brought in from othr parts of the country. The whole point of summer corn, though, is that it be local and fresh.
Corn as a vegetable is quintessentially American. Even in Europe they don’t eat it very much. You are more likely to find roasted corn in India or Pakistan, where roadside vendors will offer it with chili powder or other spice mixes spread on with slices of lime or lemon. This year has been cool and corn is not yet abundant. When it is I will be fixing mine in this fashion. It seems a little strange that this food combination of corn, chili powder and lime comes from the Indian subcontinent, not from Mexico. Mexican corn on the cob is served with butter, mayonnaise and grated cotija cheese on it and the lime slices on the side. Some people add chili powder or cayenne pepper and some don’t.
In China it is the busiest time to seed millet and the deadline for sowing activities. During this period, areas around the middle stream and downstream of the Yangtze River enter the rainy season. Regions in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River are about to enter the Plum Rains season.Sensing the wetness, the mantis comes out, the shrike starts to sing and the mockingbird stops tweeting. Plum Rains, often occurring during June and July, refer to the long period of continuous rainy or cloudy weather. This happens to be the time for plums to ripen, which explains the origin of its name. Plum Rains is a good period for growing rice, vegetables and fruits. Green plums contain a variety of natural and high-quality organic acids and are rich in minerals. They can help clean blood, lower blood lipids, and eliminate tiredness. However, fresh plums are acerbic and need to be boiled before serving.
The arrival of Grain in Ear signifies the ripening of many crops such as wheat and it is also a busy period for farmers. That can be seen from many farm sayings. One of the sayings is, “Getting busy with farm work in Grain in Ear,” prevailing in many provinces. Grain in Ear is especially critical for planting rice. There is a saying in Guizhou that goes, “If you don’t plant rice in Grain in Ear, planting will be in vain.”
The rice crop in China is actually four different crops. The earliest is that grown n the south and along the Chang Jiang (長江) river, known to westerners as the Yangtze. The third longest river in the world, Chang Jiang literally means “long river”. The first of three crops is planted here from February to April and harvested in June and July. Intermediate and single-crop late rice grows in the southwest and also along the Chang Jiang; it is planted in March to June and harvested in October and November. Double-crop late rice, planted after the early crop is reaped, is also harvested from October to November. Rice grown in the north isn’t planted until April to June and not harvested until September to October. Little rice is grown in the north, the wheat growing region of China. So the grain in ear referred to in the solar term refers to the first crop of the year.
As the flowers withered away, people in old times used to hold the ceremony to sacrifice for the “God of Flowers”, showing their gratitude and their eagerness to see the flowers again next year. This custom is already long gone and people can only read the scene in some of the ancient novels. “An Miao” (meaning seedling protection) is a traditional farming activity of southern Anhui province that has been practiced since the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Every year when Grain in Ear comes, they hold the sacrificial ceremony to pray for good harvests in the fall. People steam dumplings with new fresh wheat flour after seeding the paddy rice. They make the flour into different shapes, fruits, color them and pray for villagers’ safety.
I eat quite a bit of rice. I like rice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I make fried rice or eat it plain with stir fries. My favorite way to eat rice however, is sizzling rice soup. I love hearing the sounds when i pour the soup over the crispy rice crusts. Modern rice cookers often don’t leave a crust in the bottom the way making rice in a pot used to do. There are two solutions to this. In many Asian groceries there are prepackaged sections of crisped rice you can use. Easier still is to cook the rice in the cooker and then leave a layer in the bottom to dry out a bit. Then you can properly prepare those crusts for sizzling rice soup. The soup liquid is made separately according to whatever recipe you like. Just before serving you lightly quick fry the crusts, which will puff up slightly, then place them in a soup bowl. Before they can cool add the soup liquid and enjoy the sizzling sounds, the tempting odor. and the delicious soup.
In ancient China, on the second day of the second lunar month, people welcome the arrival of the Flower Goddess. During Grain in Ear people held sacrificial ceremonies to bid farewell to the flora and show their gratitude. Sadly this beautiful celebration is all but extinct. You can still revisit it in the 27th chapter of one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels, l A Dream of Red Mansions by Cao Xueqin.