We have great meals this time of year. Well, actually we have great meals here all year long, but as I write this I’m particularly thinking of the great ratatouille that Cherie made last night. Ratatouille is wonderfully delicious way to use the the tomatoes, squash, onions, garlic, eggplant and zuchinni that is so abundant this time of year. It’s a midsummer goulash that can be modified depending upon what’s on hand.
This is the time of year we eat lots of tomato sandwiches, sliced cucumbers, green beans, okra, cantaloupes and dishes like ratatouille. Sure, we can cook some squash out of the freezer in the winter, and it tastes great, but there’s something wonderful about eating food straight from the garden. I’m convinced that the body desires and responds best to the foods that are naturally in season at the time.
For thousands of years we humans ate whatever food nature was providing. It was the only option available to us. Now, of course, we can go buy asparagus in November, tomatoes in January, or squash in March. There are negative environmental consequences to shipping food in from thousands of miles away, rather than eating what is fresh and locally available, and to do so we also have to put up with poor-tasting food of inferior quality. And if we separate our diets from the harmony of nature, we give up the natural benefits that flow from seasonal eating.
Here on the farm we adjust our diets and meals to the seasons. We anxiously await the first asparagus spear of the year but we know that delicious treat is for spring only. We look forward to our first ripe juicy tomato. But we don’t eat fresh tomatoes in the winter. We love fresh greens and lettuce, but we don’t expect them in the summer.
One of the things our CSA members have told us often is that they enjoy coming to understand seasonal eating and how local food options relate to the season of the year. Something as fundamental as that has just been lost in our supermarket culture. And it’s wonderful to see that basic appreciation returning as more and more folks strive to eat locally and seasonally.
Of course we’re able to cheat the seasons some. We can freeze or can food to eat later when it isn’t in season. There is nothing wrong with that of course. We also grow and save the foods that sustained our ancestors through the winter–foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash. All they need is a cool dry place, and without any artificial preservation methods they keep all through the winter. So even in the dead of winter I can just go to the basement and bring up some onions and potatoes for a nice meal.
But there is something internally gratifying about synching our bodies with the seasons through a natural seasonal diet.