I was at a school carnival this weekend (gorgeous weather!) and one of the parents suggested that I write a post about buying in season and buying local. That is a very big topic, with the practical as well as philosophical aspects to cover, so be forewarned that this post will not be delving deeply into the mind of an expert. I’m figuring this stuff out as I go along and if you read along you can click on many a link that will take you to some excellent and well-designed search tools that will help us find out things we need to know.
Sometimes in California it’s easy to lose track of the seasonality of fruits and vegetables. With our long growing season and with so much available in the produce markets, it will often happen to me at some point in the fall that I get an extra little clunk on the head thought that “oh yeah, this is when I’m supposed to be eating apples.” It’s the sight of either Macintoshes or the Gravensteins in the bins that tip me off. I can’t get those varieties all year, like the Granny Smiths and Fuji’s. I’m still trying to pick up knowledge about the seasonality of meats, and finishing up Little House in the Big Woods was very interesting from that standpoint. Pa did not hunt in the spring, and the end of fall was typically the end of fresh meat for a while.
I’ve mentioned before that there is a good search tool for finding farmer’s markets from the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) website’s Better Living section, http://www.simplesteps.org/eat-local They also have a search tool to let you plug in your zipcode and see what’s seasonal by region, including a click-through to a little intro to the vegetable or fruit should you want to read more info on it.
We are definitely spoiled here in these parts. This is what the NRDC site says is available in Montana right now in Late October:
Apples, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions, Pollock (Alaskan), Potatoes, Pumpkin, Snap Peas, Tomatoes
compared to what’s available here in Northern California:
Apples, Asian Pears, Asparagus, Avocados, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Fennel, Grapefruit, Grapes, Halibut, Pacific, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Nectarines, Okra, Onions, Oranges, Peaches, Pears, Peas, Pistachios, Pollock (Alaskan), Potatoes, Radishes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Rutabaga, Scallions, Snap Peas, Spinach, Squash, Strawberries, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Turnips
I’ve added a Seasonal vegetable chart from CUESA (the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) to my resource links section or you can take a look here: http://cuesa.org/page/seasonality-chart-vegetables
CUESA has the Ferry Building in their logo. A very brief investigation on my part reveals that they are a local concern too – based at, as luck would have it, The Ferry Building. The NRDC is a local concern as well, with one of its four offices based in San Francisco. (The other three locations being in New York, Washington D.C. and Santa Monica.)
And while Farmers Markets aren’t a convenient way for me to get my fruit and veg, it’s fun to think of making a weekend family activity out of visiting what is supposed to be a great Sunday market at the Marin Civic Center or the Berkeley Bowl to see what the fuss is about. If people have tips or suggestions about weekly markets or vendors that they like, I’d love to hear about it.
Some people really build relationships with vendors when they regularly go to a farmer’s market as I know a friend did who went weekly to the Alemany Farmer’s Market – probably the biggest open air market for “real people” in SF. The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market is really expensive and both that and the Alemany market are long drives for me. BTW, I worked in the neighborhood where the Alemany market is for a few months and if you do find yourself there and wanting to get a great old-fashioned coffee shop grill breakfast, I urge you to check out Breakfast at Tiffany’s on San Bruno avenue. Every meal a high cholesterol super-treat!
Also, with the bad news I’ve been reading about honey laundering these days (a problem that’s been going on for years without my knowing about it, but has seen a recent spike in news articles lately), I’d like to dump what I have from commercial honey manufacturers and buy straight from a trusted, local CCOF source or a vendor I could look in the eye and know they stand by the product they made themselves. My sister brought back some locally produced honey – chai flavored – from the Tolay Fall Festival which just ended its run, and the taste of that honey was absolutely delicious. These harvest season festivals and pumpkin patch traditions are really great for putting some kid-glamor into unprocessed foods, aren’t they?
More about buying local another time – there is a lot to cover there, but for a start I’ll chat with some of the local merchants around the Richmond/Seacliff neighborhood who are providing some very nicely sourced food either on the grocery shelf or for take home.