The feel of the season is changing. For the first time this week, I felt a fall breeze in the air. I wasn’t imagining it either! There were others in the garden that noticed as well and confirmed my observation to be true. It was still full sun outside, but when the wind blew, you almost expected to look up and see the maple trees with fluorescent pink leaves and harvest orange all over the ground around them. There may be a wee bit of wishful thinking involved here, but I swear I could smell pumpkin pie. Fall is my favorite season, and I find myself looking for ways to make it last as long as possible. The day length is noticeably waning now and we’re practically out there by moonlight squeezing every last minute out of the evenings picking just one more green bean, just one last weed to pull, or plucking just one last squash from the vines I’m placing these books in order of favorites. The latest favorites at the top:
The ability to feel or even notice in an enriched and empathetic way the individuality of each season, even each month, will take you farther on down the seasonality lane and inevitably, make your world seem more conscious and connected. The concept of eating vegetables within their seasons is laike completing a puzzle shaped like a circle. With all those rounded sides and all those colors, it’s hard to tell where they go exactly, they could go anywhere. The pieces suddenly fit together, the colors match up, and the beautiful image is revealed when the connection between eggplant and August is made. I was not raised on a farm, much less in a family that kept a garden that was meant to feed us off of our urban yards. I had to teach myself how to notice these seasons, and with my experience of growing food, my appreciation for the turning of time has grown much more fond, and even romantic.
I hope that if eating foods within their natural seasons wasn’t something that you paid much attention to before, you’re paying attention to it now. Truly noticing and respecting these seasons involves a certain amount of restraint. Restraint for fresh strawberries in November, patience for vine ripened tomatoes in July that you’ve been waiting for since last August, love for fresh Midwestern sweet corn in August, and longing for warm butternut soup in the fall. Could you wait an entire year fresh spring peas once peas end in the late spring? Do you love tomatoes so much you’re willing to make a disaster area of your kitchen and lose sleep trying to squeeze every last one of them into a mason jar? And once February rolls around the cellar is looking grim, how much longer can you wait for vine-ripened tomatoes and melons? I believe that absence of our favorite fruits, and missing them while they’re gone, really does make the heart grow fonder of them.
You could always just go to your trusty grocery store and buy every last vegetable that you could ever want at any time of the year or even 24 hour day. Why would you want to go without? Why abstain when there’s fresh green bean right there in November, firm and crunchy on the produce isle’s shelves? Because no matter how nice the baby sitter is, she’s still not your mother. No matter how comfortable a bed your host makes for you, it’s still not your home. No matter how creamy and yellow they make that margarine stuff, it’s still not butter. No matter how red those tomatoes are, they’re still nine months from being in season again and they’re going to taste like cardboard. There is the real deal, and there is the imposter. And once you’ve had the 90% cocoa chocolate bar, that sugary Hershey thing doesn’t really do it for you anymore.
Canning and freezing vegetables is something that families do together on those hot summer nights with memories of those barren January days in mind. Because there’s nothing like enjoying the fruits of your labor in February when there just isn’t anything to go harvest quick for dinner or CSA boxes to pick up tomorrow afternoon. Knowing how to preserve the season while the season is here will also help a person create a deeper relationship to the seasons that seems to last for all the years to come. It’s not all about just the food, it’s also about your relationship the food and your family and how all of you work together to nourish each other’s bodies, minds and spiritual connection.
Pickled beets has been running in our family since my memories go back. I know that when I was a child and didn’t know anything about gardening, seasonality or even that vegetables actually came from the dirt, I liked my grandma’s pickled beets before I liked many other vegetables at all. My grandmother actually grew these beets in her yard most years. I remember being in the hot kitchen with my grandmother and my mother when the hot scalding jars came out of the cauldron on the stovetop and were set on the counter to cool. Then I would wait to hear the ping...ping...ping of the lids sealing for all of the winter. I can remember, then at Thanksgiving time climbing up onto the table for more of those spicy, sweet red things that stained my teeth, fingers and white dresses purplish-red.
Having a relationship to some vegetables is better than no relationship at all. Because I believe that life becomes sweeter when the smallest things like the blossoming on the apple trees is noticed. This spring I bit into my first strawberry and immediately I was time warped back to the spring of 2005 when I spent hours and hours and days on my hands and knees picking strawberries in the scorching sun and then, by the time the whole patch had been picked, it was time to start over again at the beginning. That spring left a serious impression on me and I will probably always think of that spring when I bite into my first strawberry every year from here on out, until possibly, a more impressionable strawberry experience tattoo’s itself on the part of my brain where strawberry memories are stored.
If you’re looking for a few good books for summer reading, while the summer lasts, I would highly recommend a few here that I recently finished. (Audio books has revolutionized my ability to keep up with all the reading. I can pick beans and read at the same time!!! I love it!!!) I’m always looking for new books to read about food, gardening and the politics surrounding them. Please share any good books with me that you know of. I’m placing these books in order of favorites. The latest favorites at the top:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbra Kingsolver-I totally love Barbra, she rocks!
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen-If you haven’t read this, READ IT!!!
The Omnivore’s Dilema by Michael Pollen-If you haven’t read this you MUST read it!
My good friend Vicky says to read The Jungle Effect-
Hmmm, what else? I’ll have to think...
So….WHAT’S in the BOX???
Carrots- Freshly dug! I think there is nothing in the world like freshly dug carrots. They have this spicy and sweet flavor when eaten raw. I love it. Cut the stems off and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, if they last long, that is.
Kale–We keep pumping those greens into you. Keep up with all the good greens! Lettuce is on sabbatical, so you’ll have to settle with this loaded brassica for now. Keeps best in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Garlic— Cured down some now, this will store till Thanksgiving at least. Keep out of direct sun. Does not need refrigeration.
Green Beans- We could have given you double this amount, but even after three days of picking, we still couldn’t get them all. We have a bumper crop of green beans, and they’re out of control! We’ll try and get you even more next week. Keeps best in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Sweet Corn- I think I warned you some time ago, we don’t grow the best sweet corn in the world. We give it our best shot every year, but we’re not bragging about anything wonderful here. At least we have it to give!!! Does not store well. Eat immediately for peak flavor!
Summer Squash, Zucchini, Patty Pan, and/or cucumbers-Plenty of summer squash, zucchini, and or patty pans to go around this week. They all taste the same, pretty much, just shaped and colored differently. This is a terrible year for cucumbers. I’m really sorry if you love them. It’s just a crummy year for them here, we’re hardly getting anything!
Next week! A short list of items that we may have next week, but will not promise to have. Due to the unexpectedness of the season, anything could pop up or go down hill in no time. Potatoes, Cabbage, Beets, Swiss Chard, Basil, Eggplants, Tomatoes, Cucumber/Zucchini/Summer Squash/Patty Pan, Green Beans, Peppers, Sweet corn, onions?