Eating locally means eating seasonally. It means that those of us in the northern hemisphere are not shilling out for asparagus in the dead of winter—asparagus grown and shipped in from Argentina. Instead we savor baked butternut squash, salads of crunchy fennel, braised endive, and roasted beet salad with citrus dressing. It aint half bad.
But there’s something else that’s really great about eating local and seasonally, something they don’t tell you up front, and that’s the excuse for total and absolute gluttony.
You see the seasons don’t hang around forever. When a certain item is in season, you’ve gotta get your fill. No one can blame you either, it’s just common sense.
Last winter, when citrus came into season, it was the Meyer lemons. I couldn’t get enough of them. I had a huge bowl in the kitchen and used them almost every day. I made Meyer lemon marmalade, lemon curd, and preserved lemons for Moroccan cooking. There was Meyer lemon sorbet, lemon cookies, lemon cupcakes, and bowls of avgolemono, a Greek lemon and rice soup. I was in lemon heaven.
But as the months passed, something happened that I hadn’t expected. Towards the end of the citrus season my passion for Meyer lemons began to wane. I still loved them, but I seemed to have gotten my fill. The last bowlful of lemons languished for a while until I squeezed them for juice and froze them into cubes to use throughout the year. I wasn’t too bothered to lose the lemons; the rhubarb and strawberries were just coming into season.
As the summer wore on I ate my fill of raspberries, cherries, and apricots. I stood over the sink to eat peaches and let the juice drip down my arm. I cubed melons and ate them with yogurt for breakfast. I stirred blueberries, blackberries, and tayberries into muffin batter, pancake batter, and cake batter. When something comes into season you got to indulge as much as possible. Who can blame you?
Back in the day when I did my shopping in the grocery store, I nearly forgot about seasons. Barring a few specialty items, most produce is available year round. You be forgiven for thinking that apples and oranges, even kiwi and strawberries, have year round growing seasons. Even here in California, with an unusually long growing season, this is not true. For the most part, fruits and vegetables come into season and then go away for a little while. But we have gotten used to not having to say goodbye, not having to do without.
The unexpected part of seasonal eating—besides the opportunity for sheer and utter gluttony—is the fun of discovering and relishing things anew. I get so excited for the first good tomatoes to come into season in August, especially because I haven't had bothered with them for a full eight months. I welcome the grapes in September, the apple-pears in October. The year becomes one giant cycle of pleasures and I indulge in them as much as I can while they are around. Then there’s a fond farewell until the next year, but I don’t mind because I am already being tempted by a new season’s delights.
These days I am all about persimmons. These gorgeously orange colored orbs are at the peak of their season right now and I can’t get enough of them. Lately I’ve been having almost one each day, peeling them carefully, savoring the smooth texture and sweet flavor. I know there are those who bake with persimmons, but I like them too much to do anything but simply eat them raw and plain. And since they soon will be gone, I am enjoying them as much as I can. Can you blame me?
You can call it eating locally or eating seasonally, I call it savoring the year as it passes—as much as I possibly can. With all this gorgeously fresh produce at the peak of its season it’s hard to resist, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Go ahead,be a little bit of a glutton. Why not indulge yourself in this season’s best? It won’t be around forever.
When not trolling farmers' markets in the San Francisco Bay Area, Tea can often be found writing the blog Tea & Cookies, a series of food essays and recipes.