Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Season

A tribute to seasonal eating from The Conscious Shopper.

Making sure I don't burn the pumpkin pie.

"Pumpkin season!" we shout, spotting the sea of pumpkins at the far end of the farmers market.

My boys dash up and down each row, fingers pointing excitedly. "Look at this one! Oooh, this one is so big. Can we get this one?"

We load a hefty white pumpkin into the stroller basket - picturing the grinning ghost we'll carve into its side - then toss in a couple pie pumpkins for good measure.

Daydreaming about pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie and pumpkin pancakes, I maneuver the stroller back through the market toward the apple stand. My youngest instantly spots the samples and begins begging for a taste while I check out the apple varieties. What should we try today? Sweet, tart, tangy?

I fill a bag with my favorites - tangy jonagolds and sweet pink ladies - and add some tart mutsus for my husband.

Piling the apples on top of the pumpkins in the stroller, I take a quick glance at my list and then begin filling my cloth bags with more seasonal bounty. My oldest takes list duty. Onions, check. Potatoes and sweet potatotes, check, check. Last of the year zucchini and squash, got it.

We head back to the car loaded up with fruits and vegetables but also with a deep feeling of excitement and gratitude for the season.

Over the last two and a half years, my family has been transitioning to a seasonal diet. Nowadays, about 80% of our produce comes from the farmers market, and since I haven't yet ventured into food preservation, we know that when we eat that last strawberry in June, we won't get another one until the next May.

In this modern age of instant gratification, it might seem like eating seasonally would evoke feelings of deprivation. But I have felt just the opposite.

When you can have a strawberry any time you want, you take the strawberry for granted. But when there are only a few short weeks in the year when you get to have a strawberry, suddenly the strawberry becomes precious. Your heart races at the sight of the first strawberry of the year. You buy a whole flat and find yourself eating nothing but strawberries for a few days. And at every visit to the farmers market for the news few weeks, you debate whether or not you've eaten enough strawberries to make it through another year.

But it doesn't end with strawberries. Next come the blueberries and the blackberries. And did we miss the one week of the year that we can find peas at the farmers market??? But it's okay because there's corn and watermelon and green beans and cantaloupe and zucchini and grapes.

And finally, here are the pumpkins and apples. Pretty soon the farmers market will begin to thin out and our diet will revolve around potatoes and sweet potatoes, collards and kale, but it's okay because winter will end.

And strawberry season will be here again!


Eco Yogini said...

some day I'd like to be at that percentage, and you're doing that with kids! we're working towards it.

eating in season and local for us means no more bananas, oranges or tropical fruit. which has been an adjustment. it's a bit tricky to eat in season here (halifax, NS) and to remain a picky eater like i am... so it's been slow- but steady :)

Jenn the Greenmom said...

oh, YUMM! Isn't autumn amazing? All the various apples and pumpkins and squash types...

We swear by Jonagoreds in our house--I'm not even sure what-all kinds of apples they are hybrids of, but they are sort of this great all purpose apple that can work for eating or pies or sauces or whatever...

Okay, you've totally inspired me...I'm going back to the market today. I want pie.

Green Bean said...

Ha. My boys do the same thing when I make pumpkin pie. I love eating seasonally. I honestly couldn't go back. Who wants watermelon in January. It is so much more special to enjoy in the heat of summer than cut up in some tasteless fruit salad. Great post!

Robbie @ Going Green Mama said...

Don't you love this time of year! I agree it's a bit more challenging to eat more seasonally, but it's sooo worth it. Even my last few strawberries we pulled for our yard the other day had far more flavor than the large, tasteless berries I picked up on sale at Kroger the other day.

Robbie said...

Oh - and we've got some watermelon in the freezer -- a fluke thing, but will make some fun slushies later!

Stevie said...

Great article - I've been trying the same thing but I've also been preserving. My freezers are jam-packed and the cupboards in the laundry room are full of jars. It's hard to ration them so we'll see how far we get this year. Congrats to you for making it 80%!!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@EcoYogini - We're definitely not locavores. I always buy bananas, carrots, and celery year round because I know my kids will eat them. In the winter, fruit is more challenging, so the percentage probably drops a little and I'll buy some canned fruit and oranges. But we're lucky in North Carolina to be able to grow year round (even though winter is mostly greens and potatoes). It's definitely harder the farther north you get.

@Jenn - I wonder if Jonagoreds are a jonagold with a red delicious...sounds yummy though!

@ Green Bean - They sat there the whole time it was baking. Cracked me up!

@Robbie - What variety of strawberry did you grow? I know there are kinds that grow through the summer, but at the farmers market here they don't sell that kind, so I'd like to put some in my yard.

@ Stevie - I hope to start canning next year. I did freeze some blueberries this year, but we ate them already. :)

Michelle (What's Cooking) said...

I remember an ah-ha moment 5 years ago when someone asked me for a suggestion for a winter recipe that used seasonal veggies. I instantly said, "how about eggplant." She looked at me like I was nuts and said that those were summer veggies. But I said - they are hearty and cozy. She just walked away. Boy did I feel foolish. Ever since then, we DO eat in season (as much as possible), and the majority of my cooking classes with children focus on produce that is at its best during THAT time of the year. Lesson learned. Food tastes so much better now - and there is nothing like that first strawberry or peach of summer!

Donna said...

Darling photo. :) We eat produce seasonally as much as possible, although I doubt we're up to 80%. I don't think we'd make it through a winter, though, without strawberry freezer jam and frozen blueberries. Every year I preserve more, and every year we run out too soon.

Jackie said...

I'm having such a hard time with this right now. The eco-geek in me REALLLLLY wants to eat as locally and seasonally as possible, but truth be told, I don't like winter veggies very much here in Chicago. I'm not quite sure how to get around that one small fact, other than canning or freezing, which I am too late to do. Your comment about feeling deprived rings true and hard for me. Any suggestions??

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Jackie - Thanks for the question! I'm answering you in my post tomorrow (Wednesday), and hopefully you'll also get some great tips from other Booth readers.


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