At this very moment, the blueberry bushes in my tiny back yard are covered with frilly bonnet-like blossoms. I am waiting and hoping for a good harvest in another month or so.
The cherry bushes already have the beginnings of fruits that I may or may not get to enjoy, since I’m trying to save them from a too-wet spring once again. If I can’t save them, the cherries will fall off the bushes before they ever ripen. I’m trying a few different methods, including using turned milk as an anti-fungal agent. We’ll see.
There are peach blossoms presaging peaches and pear blossoms heralding pears. But I know the squirrels will steal these away far before the fruits get a chance to ripen. To date, I haven’t dreamed up a method to preserve these small crops. For now, I think of them as my gift to my land and its creatures.
There are other things poking up, sprouting, blossoming, promising. Rhubarb. Italian onions. Garlic. Currants. Wine berries. All of it combines to make me feel a dual sense of fragility and gratitude for what the earth sends our way each year, even as I put my hand to soil and sprig, to help things along. This sense of fragility and gratitude is something that many in the climate conversation believe must be the basis of true and lasting positive change (rather than an afterthought tacked on to a strictly practical approach).
I do believe people are different. Some rise to a practical challenge. Others need love to first urge them on. For anyone doing climate work, it’s probably important to consider that there’s a need to address both over time.
Eating a plant-rich diet seasonally is both practical and love-infused. On the practical side, it is easy for a person to make a quick impact that reduces shipping, fuel use, packaging materials, and wastes, simply by getting our food from a farmers market, a community garden, or our own back yards.
On the other hand, there is the absolute love of food that can lead us on. My own children remember the first time they ate a garden cucumber and thought, “Wait, this is what a cucumber is really like?” They fell in love with the freshness, the taste, the pureness. We are all waiting for the chance to make thai cucumber salad come September, when the cucumbers (if they do okay this year) will be making their wild last hurrah.
Of course, eating seasonally also means we’re able to get the absolute freshest, nutrient-rich food. And what’s not to love about that?
It all takes a bit of waiting, hoping, patience, delight, and gratitude. True, it’s not completely possible in the winter time for those of us in northern climates. But, as always, it’s worth focusing a bit less on what we can’t do and putting more energy into what we can do when we can.
Consider altering your seasonal eating patterns bit by bit. Is there something you could begin waiting for instead of buying out of season? For instance, at the moment I am not buying blueberries, because I am fairly sure I’ll be getting fresh ones soon.
Write a poem about a fruit or vegetable you’d be willing to wait for, if not for practical reasons then for the love of this item in its freshest, tastiest, richest form. If you like, research to discover the actual month this item would naturally be available in your region and title your poem with the month and the item. (For example, “October Apple” or “June Blueberry.”)
Find a market that sells a pomegranate
in early summer, and you find a place
that doesn’t understand how appetite
has a season, how it takes the careful
cultivation of months for its many-chambered
heart to find fullness, a climate both steady and dry
to swell blossoms to galaxies wrapped in taut peel.
What true connoisseur hurries desire
or endures the pith, the grain-grind of seed
absent the anticipation of the small explosion
from the aril that purples the tongue?
—Anne M. Doe Overstreet,
from Delicate Machinery Suspended