Sunday, March 28, 2010

Early Spring Appreciation


In early spring, on the first warm day, it's tempting to want to taste summer. The sun shines longer, we linger as we walk home from the subway or the parking lot, and those who are lucky enough to have a bit of private outdoor space at their homes drag patio furniture to the sunnier side of the yard.

But in the New York area, March through June is one of the toughest times to eat.

Although spring permeates our bones and our taste buds start craving sweet vegetables pulled straight from the garden, we have to bear in mind that it's only the very beginning of the planting season, and local, seasonal produce won't be ready for another two months.

Around this time last year, I signed up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) share. (CSA shares allow individuals to buy products directly from farmers, usually vegetables, but often other farm goods, too, like fruit, dairy, eggs, honey, and meat.) Although it was March when I enrolled, the first delivery wasn't due until June.

When June came, I was shocked at the grubby little produce. Last year (2009) farmers took a hit all throughout the northeast United States. Cool temperatures, flooded fields, and blight wiped out or stunted tons of crops. Nevertheless, the small amount of produce that was ready to harvest in June shocked me and gave me a new appreciation for people in this region who try to eat a local-seasonal diet.

June brought forth garlic scapes, kale and other bitter greens, bok choi, micro greens, and turnips. It's not until late July that I saw anything more diverse than "green" vegetables, garlic, and onions.

So even though the weather may bat its eyelashes and dangle a few unseasonably warm days before us in March and April, anyone trying to eat seasonally and locally will have to stick with what's in their cellars, cans, and jars for a few more months.

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