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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Are Artichokes in Season?


My daughter loves artichokes. She particularly loves artichokes dipped in butter. For her recent holiday homecoming, I intended to stock up on artichokes. To my surprise, I could not find them in any one of three grocery stores where I commonly shop. Perhaps there was a run on them?  Is there a season for artichokes?  This kind of free-wheeling thought led me to reflect on how far-removed we have come from the seasonality of fruits and vegetables. My children were surprised to learn that, as a child, receiving either a clementine or a tangerine in my Christmas stocking was better than chocolate --
the season they were shipped from Florida was short, and they were expensive. My kids looked puzzled when I used to refer to canned vegetables. My mother was the exception to most of my friends’ families; she insisted on fresh vegetables and salads daily all yearlong. When the circumstances arose that there were not fresh vegetables available, she used frozen. She taught us to reuse the liquid the vegetables were steamed in to make soup bases, gravies or stews because she didn’t want us to waste the minerals.  We ate things like cabbage, carrots, beets, and lima beans in the winter. Spring lettuces and spinach would brighten our meals as the days grew longer...finally. Summer with its preponderance of corn, tomatoes, zucchini, string beans and peppers, tomatoes, radishes seemed like it was prolific enough to last a year. Still, we canned and froze our own produce, as well as that which we bought at roadside stands, against the long days of autumn and winter ahead.  It seemed impossible that the gluttony of beefsteak, roma, globe and pear tomatoes would cease. Of course, it did. My mother believed Eat what you know -- know where it grows. 
The connection of seasons to our fruits and vegetables changed late in the sixties when grocery stores started placing a new tomato substitute on the shelves.  It was watery, rubbery and somehow a poor replica of the tomato as we knew it.  That was the beginning of the end of seasonality. While at first, I was thrilled to eat fresh corn in December (Peruvian), but the delighted faded when I discovered the distance and circumstances that, say, my grapefruit in July(Mexico) or cherries in May (Oregon) had traveled.I lost my appetite. As a well-seasoned adult, I have pretty much resorted to my mother’s habits of eating fruits and vegetables. This allows me some sense of connection between the seasons, the land and my food. I understand that without the globalization and deseasonalization of our fruits and vegetables, I would be unable to eat kiwis and mangoes at any time of the year. I concede that I like to eat pineapple in April as much as I do in October.  After all,  am not fixated on my mother’s rule of thumb.   I am merely suggesting that we consider what we eat, where it comes from and whether it is in our best interest to eat it.  

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