Why Eating Seasonally is So Important
Someone asked me the other day how I got started farming. I laughed a little to myself because everything still feels and truly is only just there, at the very start. We have lived on this farm for only eight months. We've grown in its soil for four months. I have no idea what I am doing, at least, not in full detail. While there has been many hours and, now, even years of research and studying and drowning myself in information... there has only been one previous season and four months of actual effort. And that can sometimes seem overwhelmingly burdensome, anxious, and defeating. It can also feel enlightening, powerful, and rejuvenating because that gives me so many more years to try and make this right.
How did I get started farming? It all came from the desire to discover food.
Of course, I had seen and eaten food all of my life... Kind of. The truth was that I hadn't been eating real food. I had been eating what the grocery store told me to eat, what Pinterest told me to eat, or the media. It was not real food, and I became interested in farming because I first became obsessed with knowing how food was grown, where it came from, and what it was made of. You can read the start of that in this post. Of course, that was written over a year ago and while it all still rings true for me, there is much more that I have learned since then. Realizing the power of whole, real foods is what, I think, can start a revolution in your home, your family, and your body. It is the core reason why many people become first generation farmers or homesteaders. It is the way that I think many persons could convince their own families to homestead.
What is "real" food?
It's food that has not gone through, or minimally gone through, a process to get to your table. It's kind of like Whole30 but a little different. Whole30 is strictly whole foods. No added sugar, no dairy (cheese, animal milk, animal butter, cream, yogurt, etc), no grains, no alcohol, no legumes, no processed meats. You can begin to see that all of the foods on the "No List" have gone through some sort of process to arrive on your plate. For instance, cheese begins as milk and is cooked with other ingredients to turn into that deliciousness that it is. It goes through a process. Though I don't think that Whole30 exactly pinpoints this issue, the processing part, it's more about eliminating "trigger" foods for 30 days. Therefore it's a diet and not a lifestyle.
How is real food different? It's still cheese and milk and yogurt. The difference is that it's minimally processed or not processed at all. It's made from locally produced, raw milk. It's homemade cheese without pasteurization and no synthetic ingredients. You make it in your home. It is realizing that any food product on the market shelf with more than five ingredients has something synthetic and genetically modified in it. It's realizing that genetically modified food is making us fat and sick. Real food does not have added ingredients that you cannot pronounce in it. It's a whole piece of fruit or a vegetable. Eliminating grains that have not been treated in lab, but instead consuming something that has heritage and heirloom qualities. You want to find food in its purest form before eating it.
Real food usually means that you have to cook and make it yourself. It's harder to wrap your mind around because you actually have to do some work now... You cannot microwave your entire supper frozen and call it a meal anymore. You actually have to get in the kitchen.
That's been my mission statement here on this blog for over a year now. It's changed my life and the lives of my family members. It's a passion that stems from feeding my body and giving my son's body the best start possible - he eats what I eat, and for that I am extremely proud. Do we mess up? Yes! He still eats a hotdog every now and then. I still eat tortilla chips because I am hooked and trying not to be, maybe to produce my own. But we have made huge leaps and bounds in a short amount of time.
I was out in the field earlier this week picking beans and thinking about seasonal food. Why am I so inspired by it? When I baked my sour cherry pie, I realized that part of it was because I only get to make this pie once, maybe twice, a year. As I poured the filling into the pie shell and licked a sampling off of the spatula, my mind immediately went to, I am going to have to make this again... My family will want a second helping. To which, of course, I had to remember that those sour cherries had been bought from the Amish, freshly picked the day before, and there were only five cartons... I bought two of them. There probably was not going to be anymore cherries soon! It was a seasonal thing. That was okay. We had to be okay with that. While I could have gone to the grocery store and bought more cherries, they would not have tasted the same. They would have come from another state and been picked early, out of season, to preserve their freshness longer in the environment of the store. The flavor would have been bland, not as sweet. The pie would have been disappointing compared to this one. It's a story that I have lived through several times.
It reminded me of a recent farmer's market we were selling at. My mom and I made homemade strawberry rhubarb jam with our homegrown rhubarb and local strawberries to sell. It was really delicious! A woman wandered into our booth and stared at the jam jars for a while before bringing one to the checkout. "My grandmother used to make strawberry rhubarb jam once a year while I was growing up." I smiled and said how nice that must have been. She said, "My family and I used to hide jars from each other it was that good. We'd get so excited about tasting it each year and would savor that jam until it was gone, waiting for the next batch to be made the following year." Her grandma was no longer here, so she bought our jar to remember that taste, that memory.
It made me want to be that grandma, that mother, as I placed the sour cherry pie into the oven to bake. My mom only made this for me once a year. I hope Tad says that to his babies, maybe as he bakes it for them. It's the remembrance of generations and traditions and seasons. Seasons are fleeting, and the food that we gain from them even more so. Now that we farm, I am realizing how quickly the harvests go by. Peas are three weeks, abundant in the second week. Salad mix is two weeks. Beans... well I am hoping that I get at least another two to three weeks from them.
For anyone that says seasonal eating is impossible, I say that's the grocery store thinking for you. I thought the same way when we entered our first week of CSA. I was worried when all I had to give everyone was greens and roots. Won't they want onions and tomatoes?! But there's no way that I can grow that for them in April! I began to realize that the point of eating from a local farm, in a CSA or not, is not about getting all of the vegetables you want. It's about eating by the seasons for your region. You can cook the seasons without needing other ingredients. You really can do it. It's been almost two months of creating recipes based only around the vegetables in our CSA boxes, and I have still made some incredibly delicious meals without onions or tomatoes (yet)!
By eating with the seasons you are putting the area that you call home into perspective. You are supporting the local economy and ecosystem. Give your body the pleasure of surprise and tradition, of eating food when it was harvested at its peak time. That's when it is best for your body and tastes the sweetest.