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Watermelon in February?

“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?

As a member of the online book club From Left to Write, I received a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.  However, as always, all opinions are my own.

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5 Responses to “Watermelon in February?”

  1. Janin Says:
    February 20th, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    You just reminded me of shopping with my folks when I was a child– and that I hadn’t even realized that I tend to purchase most of my fresh produce only when it’s in season– because otherwise it doesn’t have the ‘tells’ my parents taught me to look for! But I have no compunction at all when it comes to the frozen vegetable section. They’re flash frozen at peak. …now I just have to look for local organic versions of them…

  2. Thien-Kim Says:
    February 20th, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Oh how my daughter begs for watermelon. I refuse to pay $8 for an out of season watermelon. I empathize.

  3. Book Club Day: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver Says:
    February 21st, 2012 at 5:08 am

    [...] Zen Mama Wannabe plans on eating seasonally available produce [...]

  4. Julie Says:
    February 21st, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I want to try! I have learned so much from this book and all the blogs on it. I grew up in suburbia USA where dinner came out of a can or a box, and have not ever really had much cause to give thought to where that food was coming from, how it was made or if it was good for me. I’ve always been healthy and a reasonable weight; how bad could it be, right? Indeed. I have a lot to learn. I really enjoyed your post!

  5. Lisa - Hannemaniacs Says:
    February 23rd, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Reading all of these posts from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has been so great. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my determination to serve my kids organic and local food as much as possible. But, it is hard to stick to it all the time… Especially when you have littles ones who love fruit and don’t understand what “in season” means.

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