So, as I am strolling through the grocery store yesterday, on a quick trip to buy a pizza crust, I see the produce guy wheeling a HUGE pallet of banana boxes out to the produce floor. No Joke!
Where were the bananas from you ask?
Guatemala. Yes, I looked.
Considering that it is over 3000 miles from my grocery store to the borders of Guatemala…..those are some well traveled bananas!
Question: do you know what fruits and vegetables are in season right now?
How about in April?
What about June?
What should you be buying in August?
How about October?
I am reminded by reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that many, many, many people in this country are SO far removed from actually growing their own food, or farming, or harvesting, that they literally have no clue that fruits and vegetables are SEASONAL. Meaning, they grow and ripen at a particular time of year…and, with only a few exceptions, ONLY that time of year.
Of course, the growing season is different based on your locale. Chicagoans and Marylanders climate is stunningly different than our Alabama friends, who are yet again different from the folks in temperate California. My own growing season is somewhat different than other Oregonians due to our unique climate here in the mountain valley of Southern Oregon.
The produce department at your local grocery chain is utterly lacking in seasons, with few exceptions. People have moved so far away from “the farm” that they have no idea that buying watermelon in April for their Easter fruit salad was completely unheard of only a few short decades ago. Watermelon, for the record, is a summertime fruit, really a late summertime fruit. Having watermelon for the Fourth of July was likely feasible in the South, but most of the rest of North America would have to wait until mid-July or early August for the delicacy.
Tomatoes are a late summertime fruit for most of North America, as well…mid to late August, coming on heavy through September and slowing down as we head into the cooler weather of late September and early October.
Today, tomatoes are available every single day of the year in your local produce department. True, they are really more of a suggestion of a tomato, tasting and smelling nothing like an actual tomato, but there they are! Waiting for you. Every single day.
As we inch closer to the beginning of Autumn, and we see decorations change to cornucopias and pumpkins, as root vegetables take a starring role in our dinners, and as we begin preparations to celebrate our Fall food holidays, pause for a moment and think about WHY these holidays are when they are in the year. Why do we start decorating with pumpkins and gourds? Why for Thanksgiving do we have Turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie?
Seasons. Garden Growing Harvesting Seasons.
Bid mid-late October the majority of the harvest is complete. The pumpkins are ripe and ready, the parsnips are waiting for the first hard frost to set the sugar in their roots, most of the other crops are already harvested and things like lettuce, zucchini, beans, peppers and summer squash are only a garden memory.
Eating fruits and vegetables in the season in which they are meant to be harvested is an amazing gastronomic experience. Food grown locally and eaten in season, is packed with flavor and nutrients that is stunningly lacking in hot house shadows of the same food. I encourage you, go to the store, buy a tomato from a canadian hot house and then go buy a tomato at your local farmers market from John the Farmer. Hold them in your hand. They will feel different. The skin is different. The shape is different. Then smell them. The hot house tomato will have no scent. The farmer’s tomato will assail you with fragrance. Then cut them open. You will see differences, here, too. Then…taste them. I encourage you to taste the hot house tomato first. It will taste like…nothing, really. It may even be a little mealy. The flesh will be pale colored. Then prepare for the wonder that is farmer John’s tomato. Inhale, bite. Savor. The flavor will hit your tongue with sweet and a slightly tart tang. The flesh will be deeply colored, firm and delicious.
We have given the control of food in our country to mega agri-business and corporations who want to dupe us into thinking that a tomato is a tomato. That watermelon in January is normal and acorn squash in April is reasonable. It isn’t.
Community Supported Agriculture is one way to learn about eating locally and within the season.You pay for a “share” of produce from local farmers, and each week or every other week for the growing season, you receive your food “share”. An excellent way to buy local, eat local, and support your local farmers. If you aren’t ready to jump onto that bandwagon, the same link can help you find a local Farmers Market in your area, where you can head down and see what is really in season right now.
You will find tomatoes, corn, late summer squash, the last of the melons and berries, LOTS of peppers, and other items depending on your locale. You may even see the late summer fruits of pears, apples and nuts. Many farmers markets are open April through late October or November, and you will find that they sell what is in season.
Okay, so eat local! Eat in Season! Your mouth will thank you.
What was on the local menu at casa Beebe for Wednesday:
Typical breakfast with the last of my fresh local blueberries 😦 and local yogurt.
Lunch was leftover pasta from the other night, which was filled with lots of good stuff from my garden.
|Local pizza crust (though I don’t know where they get their ingedients), topped with my own garden grown pesto.|
|Then add some Tillamook cheese (local-within the state) and my own garden grown tomatoes (a Cherokee Purple on the left and a Celebrity on the right)|
|Topped with pickled banana peppers from our very own garden, and napa valley (only a couple hundred miles) olives.|
|Add a bit more Tillamook Cheese|
|And bake at 500 degrees for about 10 minutes.|
|Top with a bit of fresh garden grown basil!|
|Serve with a side salad of California grown lettuce, carrots and bell pepper from my own garden.|
Now *that* is what I call a delicious, in season, local dinner!
Have you eaten local this week? A piece of fresh, local, ripe fruit or a yummy tomato? What is in season in your part of the world?