Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Tis Not the Season...

They're not in season!?

No, not right now. Out of season.

Out of season?


Well, when will they be back in season?

Hmmm.....maybe by June.


The produce in question? Green beans. Yes, this incredulous shopper has fallen victim to our seasonless society, as many of us do. Watermelon in June? No problem...Corn in February? Can do...Green beans in December? Yes! But just not at the farmers market. You see, despite what the glorious variety in our supermarkets tells us, there really is a season to produce. And even though the vast majority of all things vegetal is available at your local grocer, it doesn't come without a cost; nutrition, the environment, and taste are all compromised by not eating locally and seasonally. Now that being said, I realize that the vast majority of the world does not live in California where many, many fresh vegetables and fruits are available year round. And one cannot live on root vegetables alone, although even, dare I say especially in the North East, the local food movement is quite popular.

But the key to eating local green beans in late December is thinking ahead, buying in bulk when they are readily available (which was all the way until last month), then preserving them for another day...a cold winter's day, when you really, really must have green beans. I couldn't help but feel a wee bit smug that I had several bags of local green beans waiting in my freezer, just for that very purpose, or that I have jars of apricot preserves tucked in my pantry for days when I crave a taste of summer, all the while apricot trees still sit naked and cold in the orchard. Although these things aren't much help when you are new at the local food or farmers market thing, finding yourself in a similar situation may help inspire you to try some home preservation (canning, pickling, or freezing) when the season rolls around again!

Today at the farmers market I bought a wonderful variety of things, even though the little white tents have been steadily shrinking in number since the first frost (which for most areas was late November). I bought a pommelo, limes, avocados, eggs, lettuce, brussel sprouts, strawberries, potatoes, onions, garlic and beautiful late autumn purple grapes. There was also broccoli, cabbage, apples, honey, meyer lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, cauliflower, butternut squash, and tomatoes....yes, tomatoes. There is a grower near the coast of Ventura, who grows tomatoes year round, blanketed in plastic during the winter, but they come at a price. About $3 a pound.

So with all that, I think that it wouldn't be too hard to not have green beans for dinner. Just keep an open mind, and be inspired by what is available at the farmers market that week. And most of all, don't be afraid to try something new while it is available, and preserve that which is not always available, so that if you want to eat green beans in late December, all you have to do is shop in your very own freezer.

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