Our last CSA (community supported agriculture) share arrived last night, chock full of root vegetables. To be honest, I’m getting a bit sick of carrots but I have to push away those feelings because there are multiple pounds of them waiting for consumption in the fridge. Two reusable grocery bags full of sweet turnips, giant onions, heads of garlic with wonderfully big cloves, beets, rutabagas, a head of dark green kale, cabbage, and half a dozen oversized parsnips — this will be the foundation of our diet for the next few weeks.
This was our second year receiving a winter CSA share and it has certainly readjusted my perspective on seasonal eating. I walk through the grocery store, gazing longingly at the dripping heads of U.S-raised Romaine lettuce and colourful bell peppers, the bright red cherry tomatoes imported from Mexico, the plastic-robed cucumbers from California, and sort of wish I didn’t have such a huge stash of boring Ontario root vegetables needing to be eaten. (I do buy imported veggies occasionally, especially those glorious necessities such as lemons. As my friend Kelly once told me, “Life isn’t worth living without lemons!”)
By having these seasonal vegetables essentially forced on us bi-weekly, we’ve had to change our eating habits in order to get through them all before the next load arrives. It’s made me realize how spoiled I’d become, assuming that veggies such as lettuce and tomatoes are fine all year round, but the fact is that their consumption is dependent on an overly unhealthy food industry that spends astronomical amounts of energy on growing out of season in greenhouses, irrigating regions that shouldn’t even be farmed, and flying or shipping the produce all around the globe. At first I found it strange not to be eating lots of fresh greens all winter, but I’ve realized it’s okay to make root veggies central in our diet and wait for ‘green’ season to come around. And, when it does, I’ll be the first to pig out on salad.
Our CSA shares last summer and this winter have been smaller than anticipated by the farmer, due to the unpredictable weather. I used to judge weather based on its convenience for me, but now I fret about it on behalf of the farmers because the CSA has taught me the interconnectedness of weather and food supply. When I saw Facebook friends excitedly commenting on the upcoming +10 degrees Celsius weather forecasted for Sunday, I felt a pang of fear. Last March, we had unbelievably warm temperatures (I sat on a patio in short sleeves last St. Paddy’s day) that coaxed out the fruit blossoms, only to kill them with frigid frosts in April. As a result, fruit farmers had essentially no crops last year. I picked hardly any strawberries, no cherries at all (devastating, since they’re my favourite fruit), and very few apples. People can starve when the weather shifts, so I will not be pleased to see warm weather before it’s due.
In the meantime, I’ll plod forward with all those carrots, trying to figure out new and creative ways to use them. The best thing is that these carrots are ridiculously sweet and crunchy — far different than any at the supermarket — so they’re really best eaten straight out of the crisper.