We’ve reached the point in the agricultural year where fruits and vegetables are not dependable either in quality nor freshness. What an obnoxious, privileged statement that is in a time where food insecurity is a major issue all over the world. Long ago when my unused (cold) bedroom was piled with squashes and onions and the basement freezers were packed full of homegrown garden produce I don’t think I gave any of this much thought but over the years when I had no garden access nor time nor muscles to grow my own I came to depend on what I could purchase locally. In the summer that meant that I ate primarily from the farmer’s markets and farm stands. I knew what a good deal that was, even when the prices seemed high, because I could buy just what I needed rather than having to process 60 foot rows of a particular vegetable all ripening at the same time.
Although “fresh” and “local” have become rallying cries in so many places, winter is a still hard slog. There are, of course, winter farmer’s markets but I tire easily of the root vegetables so prevalent this time of year. The oddity is even if you live in an area which prides itself on its agricultural goods you may actually have a hard time finding what you want, in season or outside of it. Much of the best of the locally grown products go to upscale restaurants even in pandemic times.
It will be late May or later before the chocked-full-of-vitamins produce begins to show up. Long distance travel plays havoc with vitamin content as you well know. In the meantime we can be grateful that in the Northern Hemisphere this is citrus season and the introduction of Mandarins, Satsumas, and Sumos can certainly help with our Vitamin C requirements. Salads in bags are still in the grocery stores of course. There are better tomatoes than used to be available but really, this isn’t prime salad season and expectations that match what you were able to make in August will fail.
In other places and times I’ve been known to drive quite a few miles in the snowy months to stand in the produce section of a really wonderful (but still very small) grocery store just for the infusion of color. You would not believe how long a person can stray from pile to pile of colored fruits and veggies when the craving is that bad. The prices were often so high I did not buy much but some gardener bleed-through from long ago just needed proximity and the reminder that spring would come around again bringing its progressions: strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, apples, and finally pears which have gotten me through most of December. I’ve left out many and probably your favorites but oh the juice of a fully, naturally, ripened piece of fruit! It acts like a pulley trying to transport us to what comes after winter.