(Use a seasonal harvest calendar as your guide. Pin it to your refrigerator!)
How convenient would it be to have all the fruits and vegetables we want continuously supplied to us throughout the year all at once by one source? For most of us that crazy idea is the grocery store.
After all, in our most simplistic thinking, it is where our food comes from. It is always summer somewhere. But this is how we live our lives, automatically grabbing tomatoes to buy in March or asparagus in November without much thought to how or where it was grown or how it was delivered. We are creatures of habit and we often take for granted the realization that our food doesn't just come from grocery store shelves but originates in soil with a growing season that cascades over the course of many months. Today the majority of our food is coming from far off places, allowing us to eat whatever whenever we want, often exuding high production and transportation costs to reach us. Let's switch things around and still find abundance.
Many people become vegetarians to take a stand for animal rights, the environment, and for a host of other cultural and societal reasons. With the oil spill this summer in the Gulf of Mexico fresh on our minds and a growing awareness of the distance our food travels (from its source to our dinner plate approximately 1,500 miles) more and more people are becoming localvores (eating with the seasons and from food from nearby places). I've begun thinking hard about the way I eat. It is tempting, easy, convenient (and any other adjective you want to add in there) to reach for out of season fruits and vegetables at any time of the year but it is also actually possible to wait and celebrate the season when it comes.
Many of us would consider this lifestyle choice as deprivation but in fact it is quite the contrary. When we eat with the season we celebrate produce in the peak of its season which means it is going to taste fresh, sweet, and delicious not bruised, mealy, and unflavorful. When we eat with the season, we get better prices on our food and are able to come up with creative ways (canning, freezing, drying, pickling, and fermenting) of enjoying these foods throughout the year. When we eat with the season, we get to support local farmers who grow food in our own county or state. When we eat with the season, we dramatically reduce the amount of oil that would otherwise go into transporting our produce around the world. When we eat with the season, we create a food culture that builds our food security, local economy, and empowers healthier and happier people.
This year, I've started small. Little by little I've gathered what I could (including basil, beets, lentils, garbanzo beans, apples, blackberries, and jalapenos peppers) from farmers markets, food stands, and backyards. I'm still celebrating each of them, knowing exactly where they came from. I have pesto in my freezer from the basil, pickled beets in my refrigerator, and dried lentils and garbanzo beans stored in my cupboard as well as jars of applesauce and pickled jalapenos. Ok, so all the blackberries were eaten in August. Big deal. I'll wait until next summer when eating blackberries feels as celebratory to summer as eating pumpkin pie is to Fall. The best way to begin is to start small. Find some locally grown squash at your farmers market next week. Don't buy just one. Make a big batch of soup and freeze the left overs. Or peel the squash and cut it into cubes and store it in your freezer to have as a side dish with winter meals. Get creative. Keep reading my blog. I will be right along with you trying to find ways of eating locally throughout each season. As time goes on we'll get better at it. There is so much that is complex in our world today. If you are frustrated by politics, overwhelmed by the direction of the country, or are inspired to action - do something simple. Pick an apple. Make some applesauce. Share it with your friends. Celebrate. Because it is in the picking of the apple you find the feeling of connection, in the making of the applesauce self sufficiency, in the sharing of friends community, and in the celebrating abundance.