As I finished setting up the store this weekend, I really noticed how the look of it has changed from the beginning of the season. Gone are the piles of zucchini and summer squash. Taking their place are a colorful selection of winter squash and pumpkins. Tomatoes are nowhere to be found, except in the homemade jars of salsa for sale. Sweet corn has been replaced by corn shocks and ornamental corn. Heads of lettuce have given way to heads of cabbage. Even the sunflowers we placed on the table for decoration have ceased to bloom, and are now being sold, full of seed, as all-natural bird feeders.
Even though I grew up away from farming, I still lived in the country enough to have an awareness of seasonal eating. Sweet corn from the store was never good, it was best bought from the back of a pickup, especially if that pickup happened to be at the ice cream stand just a block away! As children, my brothers, sisters and I knew when to roam the woods looking for blackberries and blueberries. It was, to us, just something everyone knew was true...those store bought blackberries in January were no match for the good stuff that left your hands stained after a day of picking in the summer sunshine!
When you stop and think, it is an amazing thing that any fruit or vegetable you want can be found, year round, at any local grocery store. Do you really need to have tomatoes available all year? It seems many Americans would answer "yes!" without pausing to think about where the vegetables and fruit are coming from, how they are transported across the globe just so we have the option of having them any given week of the year. It's a luxury we don't even think about. The longer I am on the farm, the more my eating habits turn with the seasons...while summer is for chicken salad on a bed of fresh greens with tomatoes and cucumber, fall leans more toward a baked squash with sausage and onion stuffing. While this has been a process, it's one I wasn't really aware I was making. Sometimes it's kind of a jolt to realize that not everyone is so aware, and that happened a few times today. An older gentleman asked me where my sweet corn was. I explained that October is too late in the year for that vegetable to grow here, and the look on his face said that he couldn't understand what farm stand wouldn't offer corn on demand like any self-respecting grocery store. Another woman commented that it must be fall since there wasn't much on the table. Both walked out empty handed. I though about her comment, then tried to see my table the same way...but the potatoes, onions, peppers, cabbage,squash, etc got in my way. All I could see was a bountiful harvest. To be sure, there were items that were missing from the grocery store's standards, but to me those vegetables taste all the sweeter when they are fresh and in season, even if that means missing them for months out of the year. After all, there's always something else in season to make a delicious meal from!