Posted on Fri, October 30, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
2 Comments | Categories: Books, Farms and Farming, Film/TV/Radio,
by intern Grace Mitchell
In July, I befriended a twelve-year-old boy, Jackson, who proclaimed to me his fierce love for vegetables of all kinds and his disappointment in his peers who, unlike him, were not raised on farms and had yet to find such love. He told me he had trouble making friends because “they just didn’t understand.” Lucky for our friendship, I too have an undying vegetable passion and appreciate like-minded souls, so Jackson and I became fast friends.
That soft-skied evening I ventured to the garden with Jackson’s grandfather where we admired his gargantuan squash plants that would provide bountiful and opulent meals come fall. I tucked full my mouth with the exquisite fruits of his raspberry patch, a fine deal of which would become wine to warm their bodies through the wet winter. Jackson introduced me to his hog, whom he was fattening up for the state fair competition, and who would, with or without prize, give Jackson and his family bacon and the like with the passing of October. After harvesting far too many sugar peas from their vines and eating plenty more, we moved inside where Jackson’s grandmother set aside the spare sugar peas for freezing and pickling, and we sat down to enjoy a glass of last summer’s raspberry wine and the past autumn’s dried pears. A meal followed, comprised solely of pickings from our evening garden stroll. What luxurious ease it was to dine so gloriously! And Jackson and his family would be eating in like manner all winter, thanks to their voluptuous garden and seasoned foresight.
Then one day I picked up and moved to New York City, where I still have yet to secure a dresser and other useful items of furniture, where I live in fear of lighting my antique oven, and where when the L train ceases to run (mm, going on four Saturdays?)I fail to make the one-and-a-half hour trek to the farmers’ market and too frequently find myself subsisting on spelt berries and a gifted and rapidly dwindling jar of apple butter.
Alas! How easy were those summer days of backyard vegetable bounty! If I lived like Jackson, my vegetable love could be fed not only all summer and into fall harvest season, but also through the winter by the overabundance of summer produce preserved through canning, drying, and freezing. It makes my heart prickle to know that while so many others committed to eating locally have been putting up their autumn harvest for coming months, I am preparing myself for a winter of vegetable doldrums and
more spelt berries.
But really, it is not too late to stymie a wintertime mono-diet of (local!) spelt, and it is too early to resign oneself to the season-less fluorescent supermarket. It may be nearly November, but farmers’ markets in most places are still going strong (and most are accessible by operable trains), and it’s a fine time to start stockpiling onions, pickling beets, and making applesauce. Whether you live on a farm, in the city, or somewhere in between, many resources abound if you are striving to eat locally grown food year-round. Barbara Kingsolver shares her ventures in local food in her novel Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and gives tips for storing winter food. Lynn Gillespie and Jay Canode document the benefits of eating locally in their film Locavore: Local Diet, Healthy Planet, and provide tips for starting your own backyard garden. They remind us that eating locally tastes better, makes people feel better physically, supports local communities and economies, provides food security, reduces carbon footprints, and maintains biodiversity.
So, fellow vegetable lovers, take heart: circumstances do sometimes create sad empty vegetable holes in one’s heart and stomach, I know, but there are many people and resources trying to ensure that doesn’t happen. My winter certainly won’t be as bountiful as Jackson’s, but I know that if I make some small efforts now I can still indulge my local vegetable love even when it’s not July—and you should, too.