I am often reminded that anyone who was born well after WW2 may have missed out on a natural process of learning what’s in season just by eating what mom fixed from what she found in the grocery store. Today agribusiness brings us everything any time of the year. It also brings comments like “remember how tomatoes used to taste?” And “remember how kids used to get oranges in their stockings at Christmas?” Some of us we remember when foods showed in seasons. We remember foods tasted better too. So what is happening? Why are guests asking us how do I know what is in season? Perhaps the fact that they have only known one season combined with their interest in joining the eat local and therefore seasonally movement is what’s behind that question. So no wonder there are websites proliferating the internet describing what we can expect in our local markets.
It is a few days away from the start of spring here and since we are on the coast we need to be more patient than in the interior of our state. Still the new potatoes are arriving;the asparagus is tuning up and, get ready for it, the morels are here as well. This means ramps, cherry tomatoes, English peas, spring onions can not be far behind.
We are leaving winter squash, citrus season and braising greens behind. Not that we won’t see them, as we will. They will just not be local. But you say, oranges are not local at all!
Good point! Our orange season is in the winter because that is when they are at peak in California our closest access. We do eat outside our food shed, meaning what grows naturally about 100 miles from where we live. Our goal is to be local about 80% of the time. That keeps our local economy strong while being realistic at the same time.
Our April and May menus reflect spring season while our march is somewhat of a transition from winter to spring. Many old cookbooks show root cellared foods in spring menus along with the new garden produce. This is a throwback to the days when it became time to use up winter stores so to make room for new crops. Every Easter my mom would combine spring lamb with rutabaga, she tells me, because her mother did and so did her mother’s mother. All a natural progression, and why is lemon part of spring menus? Citrus is a fall/winter crop in California on the left coast and in Florida on the right coast. I even remember when oranges were part of our stockings at Christmas. And though they are around all year these days, they still taste better in the season. So in the old cookbooks that give seasonal menus, you will see citrus in the winter and early spring menus so its just natural that I now also think lemon is for spring menus.