I’m a newcomer to the food reform movement and although my family was health conscious and generally “granola” in many of our choices, we weren’t aware of which foods were in season. We left the farm and then lost that knowledge. I only know that asparagus is in the Spring….
Please comment with your knowledge about seasonality of fruits and vegetables, harvesting, and what to do over the winter season. Any farmers out there?
41 thoughts on “Open thread: Seasonality”
Cool topic. We didn't know anything about this either, but started going to our local farmers market and are slowly learning. It was also interesting for me to see first hand the variation in growing seasons when on a trip to MA from VA. They were selling things at their FM that we hadn't seen at ours in weeks.
For those of you with kids, going to the farmers market and local u-pick farms has been a great way to get my kids more interested in new fruits and veggies and for me to get more of a variety in the house. I don't just buy the same old things all the time when I can only buy what is seasonal.
I'm living in France and I'm surprised at the seasonality observance here.
Near the end of the summer, berries got so expensive and scarce. In the winter, there were tons of hard gourds, and now that it is summer again – you can forget finding a butternut squash. I've only seen persimmons in winter. In the fall, there is such a variety of mushrooms at the grocery – it was a delight! They also started carrying lots of in-the-shell chestnuts and walnuts, and they are gone now in the heat.
It's true that there are some things that the French get from either old colonies or the south, like Nice, were it is warmer and you can find them all year long (bananas, citrus, etc.). But, I've noticed the prices fluctuate for out-of-season veggies and fruits.
And if they run out of something, they are in no hurry to replace it. I had the darndest time trying to find broccoli for a while – I think it was in high summer. I'm not sure if that was a growing season or a local affect…
While sometimes it's frustrating when you have a craving (now I really want squash as I'm writing this!), it kind of makes food more exciting. Like this fall when squash is back, I'll be sooo happy to eat it whereas mid-winter we started to pumpkin out a bit.
I have a younger friend who considers her weekly CSA box a "delightful mystery" each week for she never knows exactly what she will be receiving. She also calls it a challenge as a young 20 something because she has to figure out how to cook what she gets.
A farmers market is a perfect way to find what is in season, if it isn't, it isn't there.
As for Winter, that is why you put food up, had root cellars to store your apples and winter squashes, onions and potatoes. In years past most people who were able canned all Summer as well. I didn't live on a farm but I remember this from my childhood. Not just jams and jellies but tomatoes and green beans and picklesand peaches and pears were big items at our house growing up.
Mom was just talking the other day about looking over greens on her grandmother's farm(mom is 80)so they could be washed and canned. Canned greens! No freezers back then. When freezers were invented the local grocer rented out space for local people to freeze their meat that they butcherd. I was amazed. So glad she started talking about it all.
My mum always had a garden while I was growing up, so to a small extent I suppose I've always been aware of the seasonality of certain foods; tomatoes, green peppers, and melons were things we *only* ate during the summer, and checking up on the various green lumps every morning was a treat.
I don't have the space for a garden right now (not even a porch of my own), but I'm on a fairly tight budget, so I'm buying a lot of in-season produce. It was *wonderful* last month to be able to eat strawberry after strawberry (it almost felt decadent!), and this month I get to enjoy corn on the cob, tomatoes, and peaches whenever I'd like. Next month melons should be pretty inexpensive, and I intend to enjoy them thoroughly.
The farmer's market or local farm is a great place to start learning seasonality. A farm near our residence allows people to "share-crop," or pay for a season's worth of goods ahead of time for one price. Then each week, they provide you with a basket or share of what was produced that week. The goods differ weekly, and sometimes you get more than you can eat of a good (like corn, for example).
We also grow our own small garden in our yard, and we've started canning what we can't eat. We haven't had enough to last us through the winter, but it's a start.
One of my favorite books Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver covers this topic!! The website has info too. http://animalvegetablemiracle.com/
Everyone should read this book! Barbara and her family challenged themselves to live off of homegrown and local food (veggies and meat) for at least a year. I suggest it all the time!!! She also goes into how they store food through the winter.
Julia- In the summer when you want a fall/winter squash here is an idea. Buy extra squash in the summer. Dice it or cook and freeze it. It freezes very well, then in the winter you just have to thaw and cook/heat it! It puts a little more variety in the usually fruit and veggie-scarce winter diet!
I like the NRDC's little gadget. http://www.simplesteps.org/eat-local
twistedsheets – That's a good idea! Should have thought of it myself a couple months ago! 😉 Next year…
One interesting case study on the seasonal diet is Finland. I was just there, and the diet of the Finnish has stayed pretty constant since the old times. They just recently opened up the market to international foods when they joined the EU in 1995.
However, given their comparatively short growing season (between a harsh winter that ends in April and darkness all day long being near the Artic Circle in fall/winter) I'm not sure I'd want to eat like a Finnish 365 days a year. But their strawberries – best I've ever had!!!
I use this link all the time!
For most East Cost esp around Pennsylvania, a lot of these continue past the season in which their listed:
Sugar Snap Peas
Cherries (Bing, Queen Anne)
Summer Apples (lodai,some sours)
More apples (starting to get sweeter)
Plums (methyl, shiro)
More plums (santa rosa, vision, president, prune)
Hope this helps some
Here in Western Mass, as small but growing number of farmers are starting to sell at winter farmer's markets- drastically changing my idea of what counts as seasonal! It turns out that greens like kale, collards, and chard (to a lesser extent) really love growing under piles and piles of New England snow and ice. So in addition to the expected turnips, parsnips, potatoes, squash and carrots, I can now walk five minutes down the street to my local winter farmer's market, buy a cup of hot cider while I shop, and pick up almost as many greens as I can get in the summer. Eating seasonal is easy and fun when you live in an area where farmers feel confident enough to play around with conventional notions of seasonality. This winter I'm even going to try sowing my own backyard crop of winter collard greens.
Thanks for the great resources and information!
One of the oldest and healthiest ways to preserve plants is by fermentation. Cultures who lived in cold climates had built-in freezers, but the warmer it got, the more you just had to go with the flow and work with nature, not against it. Even before vacuum seal canning, before all other methods, fermented dairy like kefir dates back thousands of years. You can make traditional sauerkraut with just cabbage and salt, or if you don't have problems with dairy, speed and enhance the process with the addition of fresh liquid whey. And the probiotic friendly bacteria, combined with the prebiotic effect of small amounts of soluble fiber, help maintain good gut flora.
My standard is something like:
I have a batch right now from 11 months ago that gets ever more rave reviews the older it gets, though I think the healthy bacteria may start to die off if it ages too long — I'd love to see studies done, since it never lasts long enough around here to find out!
PS: Zukay is one of the few brands whose products are actually "live" with proper living and healthy bacteria. Most kraut is pickled with vinegar and doesn't compare at all to the real thing in terms of nutritional value. As for taste, that's acquired, and we eat what we learn to eat — so whatever you want your kids to eat, as the Jesuits say, get 'em young and train 'em right!
Julia- I just read my comment and realized I put the wrong seasons in there… I hope you understood what I meant! That's what I get for commenting before coffee, and not proof-reading!
As for buying extra produce in summer, the stuff that freezes the best is "harder" e.g. not berries or apples!! You *can* freeze them, but they turn to mush when you thaw them.
You can freeze zucchini, summer squashes, peas, green beens, carrots etc. Store things like potatoes, hearty apples (ask your local farmers market which) and turnips in a cool dry place to winter them. If you are just going to use berries for pies, smoothies, or adding to yogurt you CAN freeze them just be prepared for mushiness, or puree and freeze.
Canning is also great, I just have never tried it!
Ms. Q- My local grocery (Wegmans, love them!) has a chart outside the store from spring to fall showing when common fruits/veggies are in season. They also have signs over by the apples in fall saying when the different varieties are available and what they are good for!
I learned most of what I know about seasonality from reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle! by Barbara Kingsolver. It reads like a novel so if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.
The winter is difficult. If you are a die hard local foodie your diet can switch root vegetables and grains and meat. There are many vegetables that winter over in the ground well. But where I am I find it hard to find a farmer's market that has a wide enough variety during the winter. My local FM is year round, but in the winter it is mostly apples, turkey and milk. The veggie farms won't make the drive to NYC if all they can sell are a couple things from their cellar. I imagine the Union Square Green Market is better because of a wider variety of vendors.
Meat is generally slaughtered in the Fall around harvest time. I never thought of meat as being 'seasonal' but try finding a chicken at a farmer's market right now. You'll probably be getting an old hen because the chicks are too little right now, they won't be big enough until fall. At least what Kingsolver says in her book corroborated by my local egg man.
I love that you mentioned asparagus. I have been thrilled to see certain foods come with the excitement of only being able to get them certain times of the year. I see so many people passionate about things like ramps, asparagus, gooseberries, tomatoes and others that have a short window. Most of these items have not translated well to larger scale distribution (i know you can get apsaragus and tomatoes year round, but nothing compares to their peak season flavor).
I am also fascinated by old recipes because they usually give you clues about what was in season at the same time. Tomatoes and eggplant and garlic are all ripe around the same time, hence the large number of recipes that include them together. Various spring greens are only available early. Ratatouille is another example. It was probably created out an overabundance of things during the summer-and you can't let them go to waste!! Thanksgiving too is filled with dishes of veggies that would be seasonal for New England in November, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, sage, root vegetables like carrots and parsnips and pumpkins and of course turkey–November would be around the time you slaughter the turkies.
There is so much natural order. It is just that in the modern world, where basil is available in January, we have forgotten how to love seasonal goods and then let them go only to move onto something else. Eating seasonally helps us to consume a wide and varied diet throughout the year. Something that more Americans really need to do!
Thanks for putting this up today!
When I lived in France, my employer had a book called L'Almanache du Gastronome, that was a monthly list of seasonal foods (including meats and seafood), and recipes. It was fantastic! Of course, it's out of print. :-\ I wonder if there is a similar resource available on the net or in print in English for the US? Though I would love to find a copy of that book again, just to reminisce. 🙂
twistedsheets – As Willy Wonka would say "Strike that; reverse it!" I got what you meant. 🙂 Too bad I don't plan months in advance for a craving, though maybe I should start…
I was going to recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but someone else beat me too it! If anyone is interested, Barbara Kingsolver is discussing the book and her experience eating seasonally on "Speaking of Faith" on most NPR stations on Sunday, July 18.
I find my local food wheel to be super handy when I'm heading to the farmer's market (gives me a clue what might be there before I leave). http://www.localfoodswheel.com/
They only have SF Bay and NY right now but maybe if people pester them they'll make other regions too! (I have no personal affiliation, just love mine.)
I took the guesswork out of it and joined a CSA co-op here in CT this year. I get a box of fresh, seasonal veggies every Friday. I freeze what I can, and we eat almost exclusively from its bounty every week. I grocery shop maybe once every two weeks, and just for things like bread (I am a terrible baker) and dairy items. We even get eggs with our co-op share!
What's in season and available is going to vary a lot depending where you live, of course.
I can't claim to be a farmer anymore, since I moved to town after I graduated from high school, but I guess I was a farmer until that time (and still live in a very rural area). We grew corn, soybeans, flax, oats, and raised hogs and had one cow for milking. We had a fairly large garden for our own food, freezing and canning for later, but did not sell to others. Who would have bought it? Everyone I knew did the same thing.
I guess sometimes it's hard for me to realize that people don't just "know" this kind of thing.
A question in return – do you think enough of the population is willing to give up the variety of food we have access to year 'round, the "perfection" of the look of the food (example – flawless apples, no worms, no blemishes, no bugs), and will enough be willing to pay the cost for local, small farm, natural, organic (whatever buzz words you wish to use) food for the local farmer to make a living?
I don't know about food seasons either, though it's another topic that I'm interested in. However… If you get cravings for fresh greens over the winter, you might want to consider getting a sprouter or two. I use the Easy Sprout Sprouter because, well, it's easy. Regular green/brown lentils sprout in 24 hours (soak for 12, rinse, then allow to sprout for 12) and taste just like hull peas- without having to actually hull.
I'm not sure if sprouting is traditional, but it sure is convenient!
Oh- and like FrogFarm said- lacto-fermenting is a great option for preserving small amounts of something. I made my first lacto fermented salsa (basically- salsa recipe that includes salt, add some whey, close jar, sit on counter for 48 hours, then refrigerate- keeps for months), and it's fantastic! So, even though I don't know how to follow the seasons, when I find certain farm fresh produce I can ferment and keep it (whey can be drained from organic whole milk yogurt), and if I don't have farm fresh, I can sprout it!
As a farm girl and vendor at several farmers' markets here in Kentucky, I never cease to be amazed at people's absolute ignorance in regards to seasonality. In early May they start showing up at the market looking for field-ripened tomatoes and sweet corn. At Memorial Day and July 4th they're looking for watermelons! And then there was the guy who came to one of the markets looking for papayas and mangoes–in Kentucky!
We've been in a summer CSA for several years now so eat seasonally from about May through Oct. We do freeze a fair amount of veggies and fruit for later in the year; this year we ate our final bag of frozen veggies the week before CSA drops started. We usually freeze squashes, corn, green beans, broccoli, eggplant, sweet peppers, and berries. We can a little, mostly hot peppers and pickles.
Honestly, without doing some kind of freezing or canning, you can't eat seasonally all year where we are; too far north. I couldn't face an entire winter without ever eating lettuce or a fresh apple.
A note on some of the lists above, some of the early spring veggies (peas, lettuces) can be planted a second time in late summer/early fall once the temperatures drop again so they aren't strictly spring foods.
Farm kid here, too (for many generations), but we rarely ate with the seasons. The most notable exception was early August, when we both gorged ourselves on our own sweet corn and gathered as an extended family to put it up. The latter was an all-day, all-hands-on-deck operation that resulted in many, many quarts of frozen corn kernels.
I think we rarely ate seasonally because, in addition to maintaining our own small farm, both my parents worked off the farm. There just wasn't much time for the work involved in seasonal eating, and my father is a notoriously picky eater. (Pizza and tacos, for instance, are too "ethnic" for him.) He's happy with just meat and potatoes.
So, when I left the nest, I began changing my ways; it was easy and fun, because I have been cooking and baking since at least age eight and I have always loved the process. However, I didn't quite have my eyes opened to seasonal eating until I moved to Madison, WI, which happened in part because friends introduced me to the Saturday morning farmers' market on the Square. As long as I was in town and wasn't otherwise booked, I was at the market every Saturday morning, selecting what I would cook and/or put up that week. That was my education, and it was largely self-acquired. (That's another skill more people — adults and children — need to take on: self-education. Ask questions about your food; do your research; make better choices. This is a hot-button issue for me.)
Speaking of putting up, my boyfriend and I made about seven quarts of refrigerator dill pickles today. We looked at all kinds of recipes, then decided to go the brine route as described by Michael Ruhlman in his book, Ratio. We'll know next week how we did!
Also, Mrs. Q: you closed comments on your egg-and-tofu post, so I'll include my comment here. If you like veggies for breakfast, you must try shakshuka. Spelling will vary, but the idea is that you cooked canned tomatoes with sauteed onions, garlic, and hot peppers, then crack eggs in to the pan and let them cook to your liking. We like it topped with cheese (feta's our favorite) and spooned over bread of any kind. Here's the method we found first and love:
I'm quite disappointed in the fact that you have now seen fit to close comments on every old post entirely, and on the current ones after a very short time. It seems as though you are getting too frustrated with commenters that either disagree with you or with each other. To wit, closing comments on yesterday's post after only 27 comments. And my impression–which I admit could be entirely incorrect–is that you were trying to quash the disagreement between an anonymous commenter and "frogfarm" on the latter's seeming misunderstanding and ignorance of the scientific method, and his attempt to conveniently change the subject when asked if he even understands that term or what pseudoscience is. It was an interesting discussion, though headed toward one-sidededness, since the anonymous commenter clearly understood that frogfarm was not planning on admitting his ignorance of the difference between peer-reviewed research and the references he provides. Whatever the outcome would have been in that case, it seems odd that you are now greatly limiting discussion.
I don't always get to read the day's post on the day itself, and with this new policy, and the lack of ability to join the discussion by the next day, I wonder if it will be as interesting to read the posts and comments.
Most blog owners encourage greater participation and want more readers; this new policy seems to be working in the exact opposite way. Maybe you'll consider explaining it in a post soon.
@Queenscook – There are a few reasons I shut down comments recently. In regards to the "tofu omelet" premature closure of comments — it was the spat between two readers. Admittedly frogfarm does get to me and instead of keeping it going, I just shut it down.
Moderating comments is actually time-consuming and I'd consider stopping doing it if I didn't have to worry about people using terrible language at me that is not appropriate for a blog that could be read by students. Additionally I read that blog authors are responsible for the comments on their blogs. That means I need to know what is being said.
Finally I went on vacation last week. I was trying to keep it on the down low. When comments exploded on the McDonald's post, I had basically no more than 15 minutes of internet access. I made the decision to halt all comments so that I could enjoy my vacation and not play referee. If I had thought that the McDonald's post would flare up like that, I would not have set it up to auto-post while I was away. Go figure!
I'll try to keep comments open longer. Thanks for the feedback!
As a college student in a state away from home, I can comment on the value of farmers' markets on myself and my felow classmates. Most of us come from homes where we have moms and dads always looking over our shoulders, allowing us to make our own food choices, but sometimes commenting and giving advice on health and nutrition. When we break away from college, it's anything goes. You watch the kids who were sugar deprived at home go nuts and eat desserts for breakfast lunch, and dinner, and gain the Freshman 15. You watch the kids whose parents didn't care continue their bad habits like it's a cycle they can't break free of. It's pathetic. Food enters our body through a hand-to-mouth movement. Easily stopped and evaluated. But no one does it! No one around in the cafeteria stops, looks at their fork, says "Maybe I DON'T this fifth piece of pie, and sets the forkk down. My second year of college, I started visiting the farmers' market. Little by little, I started dragging my peers along with me. I'm proud to say that our Saturday Farmers' Market Group now stands at around 78 kids. It's like the kids have discovered a completely different world. You know how sometimes parents will reward their kids while potty training? If they use the potty, they get a Hershey Kiss or a forbidden candy that they immediately chow down on like there's no tomorrow. Well that's what seasonal fruits have become for my classmates and I. We actually get excited about fruits. Why? Visiting the farmers' market, we learned the value in waiting to eat fruit until it's in season. It tastes much better. It becomes a treat. We love the suspense of waiting till the summer to sink our teeth into a succulent red watermelon. When we wait, it becomes like the Hershey Kiss given for potty training. You haven't seen an excited college kid until you've seen one racing to the market to buy a watermelon!!! It's also a chance for us to get out and explore they area. My guy friends meet the farmers, who are always willing to hire young men to help them in their fields and women to help sell on given Saturdays. The chemist buffs in my grade love learning about the different pesticides some farmers choose to use and my few entymologyst-minded friends get a kick out of talking about the risks/benefits of those pesticides. The rest of us just enjoy going from seller to seller, enjoying the fruits in their prime, in their season. Veggies as well. Fruits are our favorites at the amrket, though, and we'll go around slaping each other's hands and saying "No fruit until you eat your veggies!" Fruits have become so in demand amongst us that kids are craving them all the time! Especially before tests. Forget energy drinks like RedBull and Monster. Got a test tomorrow? Throw away the pills. Pop a grape instead! Fruits are AMAZING for energy bursts. I may be rambling a bit, but the Nashville Farmers' Market has had such a cool effect on my eating habits as well as those of my friends. I would reccomend weekly trips to all families with high school kids about to graduate. Teach them now! Don't keep this treasure a secret.
Mrs. Q, if I "get to" you, I'm more than happy not to comment. You have enough stress to deal with in this project. I'll just bow out by saying that those arguing with me are ignoring the data I present, not vice versa, and that I believe the science I rely on is of better quality — obviously, or I wouldn't put my money where my mouth is by practicing what I "preach" (an unfortunate choice of words :). As long as they spell my name right and quit assuming I'm male, it's "all good, all the time"!
PS: "Dueling science"? Controversy? Denise Minger responds to T. Colin Cambell's response:
PS: For those wanting a "less woo-woo" source than, say, the Weston Price Foundation, there is the Nutrition and Metabolism Society:
and the American Society of Evolutionary Medicine:
There you go, medical professionals who can clearly explain the what and the why. Do your research and make your own choices — and the blessings of health and liberty to you all!
@frogfarm — I like all opinions and if I really had a problem with you I would have contacted you directly. I can usually predict what you are going to say! I like loyal readers so don't stop commenting. Sometimes your opinion is a little over the top though as viewed by those eating a non-paleo diet!
Ah Liberty, sweet Liberty.
I so enjoy everyone's comments. So much to think about and research! (I love all the links)
and eat some of those tomatos my brother dropped by yesterday!!
Re: frogfarm's comment: "and that I believe the science I rely on is of better quality — obviously, or I wouldn't put my money where my mouth is by practicing what I "preach" (an unfortunate choice of words :). As long as they spell my name right and quit assuming I'm male, it's "all good, all the time"!"
The problem with someone simply "believing" the science they rely on is good vs. understanding the scientific method and peer-reviewed research IS the issue. As long as the answer continues to be "I believe this and these are perfectly good studies, in my opinion," the rest of us have every right–even responsibility–to believe that these studies could not possibly be verified by independent, objective scientists, and we need to be extremely wary of adopting such harmful practices without valid science to back it up. Anecdotal evidence just doesn't cut it; anyone can publish anything. The internet is certainly proof of that.
As for assuming gender, that's English grammar. Although many use the he/she thing a lot, it is still acceptable in English grammar to refer to an person of unknown gender by "he." If frogfarm is now revealing her gender, I'd be perfectly happy to use the pronoun "she."
i love eating seasonally.
a few years ago i joined a csa. it was a great experience, though the food was too much, even split w/ my roommate and my sister, so we quit after the first year. i still have the farm's website bookmarked so i can double check harvest times for various items, even though i now do my shopping at a grocery store.
also, being vegetarian, i buy a lot of produce. not only is it easy to notice the changes in price and quality, but i generally only crave things in season now. waiting definitely makes things seem to taste 10 times better, and just when i start to get bored with a particular fruit or veggie, it's time for the seasons to change, and everything's all new again.
during winter, i mostly use potatoes, winter squash, and frozen vegetables and rely on frozen and dried fruit. though i do eventually break down and buy a few oranges or clementines by february. by then i NEED fresh fruit.
It's true, by the end of a season, you are SO weary of whatever is in season. It makes the new stuff absolutely a joy to eat! And eat it we do. We grow our own asparagus and eat it every day (if we have enough) during it's short season. By the time it is ready to go to seed, I could care less if I have it again! Same with tomatoes and strawberries. And apples always show up in the farmer's market long before I think they should. It is a reminder I need every year that fall does not start with going back to school! We do extend seasons here, by growing cold tolerant greens under cover even after hard frosts. We had spinach and arugula in late November (in Michigan). I hope to plant more cold hardy stuff to grow under cover this year to extend the season.
Farmer's Markets rule! I love ours dearly and go to the bitter end in December and show up on the first days in March. We even have a growing movement of farmer's using covered hoop houses around here so we can usually get fresh veg all year round!
Apologies for the late post but beach weather was extraordinary this weekend. I live for beach weather.
I eat spaghetti squash all year long. Because it's a hard winter squash, it keeps well as long as you keep it cool and dry. I stock up when it's in season and store several in the coolest part of my basement. I keep an eye on them and they usually last for a full year. You just have to make sure that air can circulate around them and it's best if they don't touch one another. I store them in old milk crates. Wire shelving would be another good option. You can do this with other hard winter squash, too. I still have a butternut squash down there from last season and it looks just as nice as the day I brought it home last fall. Cabbage is another long keeper. I bought several heads of savoy cabbage last fall that kept just fine most of the winter stored in my garage on wire shelves (again, good air circulation and cool, dry air were key). The last one was a good 6 mo. old when I used it and it was perfectly fine.
I live in CT and one big farmers market here recently moved indoors and will now be open year-round (yeah!). I hope this is a new trend and that others will follow suit. There's also an urban farm in my area that grows certain items in greenhouses year-round such as herbs and asparagus. It's nice to have those items produced locally and I admit that I do occasionally buy nonseasonal produce from them without guilt.
Thanks to all who suggested Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm going to check it out.
@frogfarm, I just noticed the name "Morton Satin of the Salt Institute" on the Nutrition and Metabolism Society site. Ahhhhh haaaaaa haaaaaa haaaaaa!!!!!!!! That's a good one!!! You really had me going there for awhile. Thanks for the laugh!
My parents own an agricultural business (a winery) and besides grapes they have berries, apples, pears, peaches, asparagus, walnuts and other edibles on their land. Plus, we always planted a garden. I grew up knowing that strawberries were among the first things to get ripe, peas and beans are ready before we'd get our first tomatoes and peppers, sweet corn wasn't picked until late summer before the grape harvest, and the walnuts were one of the last things we could pick. I always took this knowledge for granted. One time, the April after I finished college, a guy asked me on a date. He wondered out loud if we should go apple picking. I looked at him like he had two heads. But since then, I've noticed that a lot of people don't know anything about the seasonality of foods or why stews are traditional winter food and apple cider is only available in the fall. I don't know if this is something that a single lesson at school could teach- constant exposure to in-season foods seems like the most obvious way to connect children with seasonal (and healthy) food.
I went to my local farmer's market in TX (there are several) and they gave me a little flyer of when they were available in the summer and what would be available each month.
This month is tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onions and peaches. I was told by a local grocer that figs would be available in six weeks.
I'm probably lucky that I live in a warm climate. We get some kind of produce here all year round. The winters don't get cold enough to kill things like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, and other greens, as well as root crops like carrots and beets. Winter is also when citrus fruits are in season, shipped in from not-so-far away in the Rio Grande Valley (it's just barely too cold here for citrus fruits; I have a dwarf lemon and lime tree that I have in pots so I can bring them in those couple of times a year when it gets below 25F).
Actually, the lean times are right about now, in the middle of summer, where not much can stay alive in this heat besides okra and watermelons.
I'm also surprised at how ignorant most people are about seasonality. You would think just the prices and/or quality of the produce at the regular old grocery store would be a clue. There's a reason why strawberries are cheap and good in May but expensive and tasteless in December, why pomegranates are no where to be found right now, and why fresh sweet corn was 10 cents an ear last month.
Maybe most people don't pay attention even to that.
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