The weather of the past week has proven one thing for sure – summer is upon us! Scorching days of 90 degree heat that seems to radiate from the ground beneath us and a humidity that makes you melt in the shade have made us all question our sanity, but the hope is that it turns our laborious efforts into a fruitful summer. As we dredge up all our strength to wake up in the morning and attempt some sort of productivity in spite of the inhospitable climate, we are rewarded with the sight of ripening tomatoes, flowering eggplants, thirst quenching cucumbers and zucchini that seems to triple in size overnight. Yup, there’s no doubt about it – summer has arrived!
While summer traditionally is a period marked by juicy tomatoes and sweet corn, it also means the end of some of our more delicate spring crops. Spinach is a distant memory, lettuce browns and wilts in the hot days, and our more cool-tolerant brassicas have decided to just give up. Most traumatic to me, however, is the passing of sugar snap peas as we pulled the remnants of the plants up this weekend in order to pave the way for summer crop planting. It was all I could do to scavenge the last few perfectly plump peas as we piled our compost high with the plant matter. Despite my desperation at clinging to the last few remnants of spring, I can’t say these peapods were especially tasty. As the plants get stressed, the fruit gets tougher and significantly less sweet. What I find most intriguing is that my tastes have started to fluctuate with seasons as well – after the first harvest I ate nearly 2 pounds in the course of a 1 hour flight, and now have to actively try to eat a handful.
Agricultural “improvements,” expedited shipping procedures, and the increase of imports from other country has changed our food system and nutritional patterns in ways too numerous to count, but for me the most stark is the ability to eat any vegetable whenever we want. Snap peas are now available in the dead of winter, greenhouse tomatoes mean “fresh” salsa in February, and traditional winter crops are available year round. However, what we’ve made up in convenience we’ve ruined (in my opinion) in terms of quality and tastiness. No tomato grown in a greenhouse and shipped 1000 miles is going to taste the same is one plucked fresh out of the garden in the dead heat of summer, and I find that every year my taste buds change to follow a more seasonal pattern as well.
Throughout my time spent in rural Latin America, I often woed the unavailability of many of my favorite crops. If it wasn’t grown in my town, you had to travel 2 hours to the nearest city to buy it imported from some other country. Most of the time my income was not sufficient enough to cover the price of imported apples, zucchini, and some other favorites I missed, but in general whatever you found at the megastore in the city paled in comparison to the fresh produce available in the town market. I learned to savor the fruits of the season – mangoes and avocadoes in April, apples in September, the sparse two weeks at the beginning of the rainy season that brought forth overflowing baskets of trippy looking mushrooms – and eagerly anticipate what was to come. Sure, I could find a mango at the supermarket whenever, but the drastic taste difference made it a poor excuse for those that came during peak freshness. People ate what was available locally because that’s what they could afford, and in all seriousness there was no comparison when it came to taste. Better to have no mango at all than to eat one out of season (most of the time).
Since coming back, I’ve tried to keep the theme of seasonality as an integral part to my life. After all, as a farmer it’s hard not to. I’m a firm believer that our bodies work in harmony with nature. Many vegetables are available in seasons when our bodies need their nutrients most. I try not to roll my eyes when people come seeking tomatoes and corn in early June nor fresh lettuce in the middle of August. Our broken food system has distanced us from the production sources and the concept of seasonality so severely that I often have to remind myself that most people are unaware that most crops are only available during certain times.
Buying produce locally, whether from us, your town’s farmer’s market, or some other local farmer, is the first step in bringing seasonality back into our lives. While it’s nice to have the occasional apple in April, I encourage you all to adapt your diets, even slightly, to the availability of your local environment. Food will be SO much tastier and your local farmers will be much happier when people don’t scoff at our lack of corn on Memorial Day.
To end on a slightly less cynical note, on the day of our first snap pea harvest back in May I found myself on a plane to visit a friend. Terrified at the prospect of eating airport food, I brought a meager 2 pounds with me, which I proceeded to munch on the entirety of the plane ride, much to the dismay of my fellow passengers. In retaliation (and because I was dreading opening up my physiology textbook to study) I composed an ode to peas. I am not very literary, but I hope you enjoy it.
And until next year, au revoir my dear pea friends! I will think of you fondly and try not to cave when I see snap peas at the supermarket in September, as I know weakness will only result in disappointment and a gross taste in my mouth.
In other news, we learned our goats also love them some peas. We’re worried how patient Bubbles will be milking now without her daily treat.
An Ode to Peas
Oh pea! How sweet
You are to eat
That crisp, that crunch
So fun to munch
‘twill not suffice just three or four
a single pea makes me scream “MORE!”
I gorge myself, then come September
Crave that sweetness I remember
Through winter’s cold I wait and wait
Come May I start to salivate
Then June arrives and bushels fill
Though mine do nut for eat I will
One for me, one for the stand
No, twelve for me’s what I demand!
In Just one hour I can devour
Three pounds or more, I never sour
Of that sweet taste shoved in my face
Can’t eat them all? How dare you waste!
And I care not your point of view
If it irks you when I chew
So loud the crunch of freshness ripe
Tis jealousy that makes you gripe
So look away if I offend
My love for peas will never end!
Oh Pea! How sweet
You are to eat
That crisp, that crunch
Go eat a bunch!