Another Solstice come and gone. Blessed be the sun. Here in the American South, we’re entering his time of power. The days may be getting shorter, but soon the heat will be upon us. Marking the times of year brings us back to the Here and the Now. Our modern life hangs timeless, without location. I hop on a plane and see a friend three thousand miles away. I chat with another friend half way around the world. I write these words and they might be read tomorrow or a year from now, in the summer or in the fall. There’s a lot that is good about that. We shouldn’t cast that aside.
But there is a lot that is good about rooting ourselves in the moment, in our own space. The Earth reminds us of this when we eat out of season. Yes, you can have your asparagus in December, but doing so is its own punishment. You can get your tomatoes from another hemisphere, but would you know what they were blindfolded?
Praise the sun’s gifts to your land in their own time. Epicurious has a wonderful guide for the United States to remind you. If you’re here in North Carolina, check out the Agriculture Department’s flyer. And don’t be afraid to spend a little time at the grocery store looking in that big book they have in the produce section that tells you what’s in season and how to choose and store your vegetables. Be brave, ask about it. Grocers in the mega-marts these days may not know much about their produce, but they’ll know where the book is.
And never forget the wonderful gifts Nature has given you in your senses. Forget your eyes. All the grocer tricks are built to trick your eyes. But your nose…. Nature means for food to smell. That’s how we find it when it’s ready. Food that smells like nothing will generally taste like nothing, and food that tastes like nothing is rarely good for body or soul. It’s tricky to learn what food should feel like. Some things should be hard, some firm, some heavy. But everything should smell enticing. As you grow used to when things are in season where you live (which is unlike any other place in the world), you can make produce shopping lists. But until then, be content that most American vegetables can be steamed, roasted or sauteed and they’ll go well with almost any American dinner, and just follow your nose.
If you’re ready to truly come local, look up Community Supposed Agriculture. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and it carries all the benefits and hassles of local. But the benefits are incredible to you (great food), your community (supporting local business), and the world (reducing shipping). But if CSA is too much, don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. Choose something this week because it’s in the right time, in the right place. Mark the season.