I am slowly making my way through Barbara Kingsolver‘s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Actually, the lectures on the degradation of the environment and the decline of the family farmer by industrial agriculture and monoculture that start the book depressed me so much that I had to stop reading for a while. Sometimes, when you really consider what you are up against, it seems hopeless to make even a small dent of change.
But I have picked the book up again and just read some wonderful common sense I had to share. When trying to determine what is in season at any point in the year, Kingsolver suggests thinking of all fruits and vegetables as one annual plant, a “vegitannual.” If you are familiar with the life cycle of an annual plant, you know that first to appear are shoots and leaves, followed by buds and flowers, then green fruit, ripe fruit and hard fruit. Last, the plant fattens its roots and tubers to prepare for winter.
Since this cycle is true of all plants, it can help you determine what is in season when. Early in the spring are the first shoots and leaves: lettuces, spinach, greens, sprouts, garlic shoots. Then come the buds and flowers: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus. Next are the green fruits: cucumber, zucchini, sugar snap peas, green beans. Then the ripe fruits: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, peaches, plums. In fall, the hard fruits come into season: apples, pears, melons, winter squash, pumpkin. Finally, the roots and tubers are ripe: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips.
I like this idea because it’s easy to remember, and it serves as a reality check when meal planning or going to the grocery store. Of course, when I see that a half pint of fresh blueberries is costing $4.99, that’s another good sign that their season is long over.
I am trying to eat more seasonally now, just like Barbara Kingsolver, for several reasons. For one, seasonal fruits and vegetables are in abundance, so they’re cheaper. They are more likely to be locally grown. They also look and taste better because they have been picked when ripe and haven’t had to endure long shipping times. And eating seasonally makes menu planning so much simpler because “what grows together goes together.”