“Why can’t we get the watermelon?” my kids plead with me as we cruise the aisles in the grocery store. Not in season, I reply, not to be persuaded. The irony is I don’t think twice as I reach for the asparagus, setting it down gently in our cart next to the carton of strawberries and on-the-vine tomatoes. Yeah, not in season indeed.
I grew up in a family that was conscious of growing seasons. My mom would never buy strawberries out of season, primarily from a cost perspective: out of season items cost more. (They also don’t taste as good, and if you don’t agree just taste succulent summer corn on the cob or red, ripe strawberries freshly picked and so sweet they just melt in your mouth). My mom knew what was in season and what wasn’t and shopped accordingly.
However, I also don’t think we had as many options back then. Nowadays, in our 24-7 society, you can get anything practically any time. Raspberries, strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes, apples…. you name it…. are all within reach at my local grocery market ANY time of year. When it is winter here (in the United States) it is summer somewhere else, so food is trucked and shipped and flown all over the planet to accommodate us. The cost of this does not just make asparagus $3.99 a pound in February; there is the greater cost of what all that transporting is doing to our planet. Still, it would seem our convenience comes first.
My mom knew what was in season because she tended to a vegetable garden. As a small child, I remember going out with her to pick boysenberries in the summer or check on our squash plants in the fall. Tangerines, lemons, strawberries, swiss chard, peas, figs, and lots of tomatoes all grew easily in our backyard. I was spoiled growing up in Southern California and sadly didn’t even realize it.
You have a better understanding of what is in season when you grow your own food. No wonder why my kids don’t have a clue – come to think of it, I’m not sure that I really know either (other than some of the basics). Perhaps that should be lesson number one. If we could follow that and try to buy only that which is in season (okay, with maybe just a few deviations) we would be speaking out with our pocketbook as well as being the change many would argue this country desperately needs.
I am also trying to speak out by buying organic (as often as possible) and especially things grown in my area by local farmers. That is another key element to all this. The food tastes better, it is better for the environment, and it is better for our local economy. Talk about a win win win!
What has inspired all this and got me to print out lists of which fruits and vegetables are in season in the various months? A fascinating book by bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She and her family left the deserts of Arizona for the mountains of Virginia to live a whole year eating food they had grown and/or raised themselves or gotten from local farmers around them (or did without). I’m not at that point (insert my children’s loud sigh of relief) but I do feel a stirring in me to start making some healthy changes in the way we are eating and living.
As Ms. Kingsolver’s husband points out in her book: “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences.”
This Zen Mama Wannabe is ready and willing to start making those small changes. What do you think YOU could do?