“Mommy, is it getting too warm for apples?” asked my daughter as we ate lunch a few days ago.
“Well,” I replied. “I think most apples ripen in the fall. Why do you ask?”
“They don’t taste like bubble gum anymore,” she answered.
I agreed, “I know, they are not tasting as good as they did a few months ago.”
I really don’t know a lot about growing apples except that many varieties like colder climates and I associate them with the fall. Her statement made me realize how attuned we have become the subtle (and not so subtle) changes in the quality of our produce as we transition from one season to the next. By making a commitment to eat all of our veggies and fruit from the backyard, CSA share, or the farmers’ market, we also made a commitment to eat in season. Before switching over to buying our produce exclusively from local producers, I still made large efforts to buy in season, but the switch ensures that we are always right on track and that we are buying locally.
I always think I am going to miss a certain vegetable or fruit as we wait the many months for them to return to our farmers’ market or make an appearance in our CSA share, and I do at times (especially tomatoes), but the wait makes them all the more special when they do arrive.
I see this in my daughter’s anticipation of the pea pods filling out, in her eyeing the melons at the grocery store and asking if it is the right time of year for them yet, and when she forlornly asks if kale will grow in the summer already knowing the answer. It goes the other way as well, we also notice when something starts to pass its prime. Both of my children could not get enough of apples through the fall and most of the winter. Now, as spring comes on, they are turning them down, a lot. Maybe they are a little tired of them, but it could also have to do with their declining taste and texture.
I think I first noticed this kind of change myself at the end of last summer. I had fallen in love with donut peaches. I thought their flavor to be unparalleled, that is, until their season had passed. As their supplies diminished in the market stalls, so did their taste and texture. Their time had come and gone, and now I eagerly await them, knowing they are just around the corner.
Eating in season and locally really does allow us to enjoy things at their peak flavor. Before experiencing this myself, with my own taste buds, I used to ask, could there really be so much difference? I could resoundingly say that garden grown veggies tasted so much better than store-bought. I attributed this to their freshness (which is a huge part), but now see the connection to the seasonal aspects as well. The tomatoes (green house grown) starting to appear at one stall at the market, while pretty tasty, have a long way to go to match the summer ripened fruit.
Now that food has become a global commodity, one can buy asparagus grown in Peru, apples from Chile, blueberries from Canada. And many of these things can be purchased year around. There is something very grounding about eating from a very localized season. The universe is full of cycles: moon, menstrual, water, life,…seasons. We live within them, whether we are connected to them or not. Quite by accident we discovered the pleasures of being connected to the seasons through what we eat, so much so, we notice when apples taste like “bubble gum.” I invite you to give it a whirl.