Today is our last harvest day for our vegetable customers. After a twenty-two week season (almost half a year), the prospect of the end of harvesting is a bit surreal. Of course, it will mean more time for family and other pursuits. But it’s also sad, because it means that our customers will have to return to the supermarket and the week-old produce one finds there.
Buying local produce isn’t just good for the environment and farmers, it’s good for the customer! The flavor of fresh vegetables grown in fertile soil simply can’t be compared to the old, bland vegetables one finds in the supermarket. In our climate, we could operate our CSA year round with a little help from unheated, plastic greenhouses, but our off-campus teaching work would require finding a business partner to help run the farm in the winter. But I think this is inevitable for us in the future because it’s just too sad to send our customers back to the supermarket!
The flavors of fall are different from the flavors of summer, as tomatoes and peppers give way to cabbages and kale, but they have their own appeal. A soup of savoy cabbage and bacon, oven-roasted winter squash with maple syrup, brussels sprouts sauteed in duck fat…these are flavors deeply comforting and nourishing. Some vegetables, like carrots, become sweeter in the fall, especially after they’ve seen a few freezes and some of their starch is converted to sugar. The same is true for kale and brussels sprouts. Leeks might look a little shabby after some frosts, but peel away the out layers and one finds a perfect heart within. Though at first it might seem limited or awkward to eat in season, soon the thought of buying green beans in December and tomatoes in February begins to seem strange indeed. Fall is a time for slowing down and storing up energy for the long winter to come. Eating in season helps connect us to this natural rhythm.