Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Harvest Dinner: A Lesson in Waiting

Our Sunday dinner this week was inspired by an effort to eat more seasonally. Here in zone six, asparagus and strawberries are ready for harvest. So I put together a spring-inspired dinner of asparagus soup (that I made with locally grown asparagus), homemade rosemary bread, and strawberries, which I served with a cream cheese dip.

I've been doing some reading lately (more on that later) and it's gotten my wheels turning about being more conscious of my food choices. As I flipped through my meal plan notebook from the past few months, I realized that I ate a lot of asparagus in January. I'll be honest, if you had asked me a few months ago when asparagus was harvested, I probably would have guessed in the spring, but truly, I hadn't really thought about it. I suppose that's pretty much the norm in our modern lives. We can go into the nearest grocery store and get pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want it, regardless of where we live or what month of the year it is.

As I did my grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon, I was happy to plunk into my cart a number of conscious spring-time choices; a load of spinach for a mid-week spanakopita, strawberries for sorbet, and lettuce to use in salads and turkey burgers. I was also aware that it was not yet harvest-time for the potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers that I also tossed into my cart, which means that they have likely traveled across more than a few state lines.

In recent years, I've experienced the reward of purchasing seasonal, local produce. It looks better. It tastes better. I feel better about buying it. Better yet, I know where my money's going when I buy it - right into the hands of the farmer who produced it. I had that kind of experience this week when I bought my local asparagus. It was 10 times more flavorful than the asparagus that I prepared in January and I all but laid eyes on the very soil where it came out of the earth.

I learned a lesson. It pays to wait.

My first memorable experience in patience and restraint when it comes to food was with apples. Six years ago I started eating organic apples that I bought from the local health food store. They were so superior in flavor and texture that when I bit into a conventional apple, I nearly spit it out. I was sold. From then on I knew that, if nothing else, I would only eat organic apples.

As the season waned, I noticed the abundance of apples starting to dwindle, until one day I walked back to their usual spot on the bottom produce shelf and found that there were none - something that I rarely, if ever, experienced with conventional foods at the regular grocery store. For a moment, I pondered stopping at that regular grocery store on my way home and picking up some apples there. However, I knew from previous experience that I'd just be disappointed. So that was it. I didn't eat another single apple until early autumn of the following year.

Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

Cooking notes: For the Asparagus Soup, I followed the recipe in The Big Book of Soups and Stews. I winged it with the cream cheese dip. I mashed up about four strawberries, mixed them with 4 oz. cream cheese, and then kept adding vanilla yogurt until the consistency was right and it tasted sweet enough. The rosemary bread is from the Tassajara Bread Book.


  1. Wonderful informative well-written. Local, seasonal, organic is always best. I wrote an article for BC on this very topic a few weeks ago. Any awareness we can get, so people can really make wiser food choices is always good. Great job. Cheers!

  2. hi nicki! thank you so much for visiting and commenting my blog! i see that you are a cook so making brazilian cheese bread should be a breeze for you!!! they are sooo good!

    my friend is a nutritionist who always talks to me about eating organic, there is a "dirty dozen" of fruit that has lots of pesticides on them so it is suggested that you buy them organic... strawberries, peaches and apples do top that list so if i can, i try to buy organic for those!! i think conventionally, people think that organic does not taste as good, but i think they are wrong!! =)

  3. So agree! Organic, especially berries and tomatoes taste way better. Even better than buying organic is growing it yourself. I love being able to pick an apple right off my tree and eat it or a strawberry right out of my garden...the best. Great post!

  4. Hi Domestic Adventurer, you look just like my little sister! You would be shocked if I sent you a photo...
    Glad to find your blog here, and I agree about waiting. That is how I operate now. oh, and I hate conventional fruit. I can't eat it now that I've had local, seasonal, & organic fruit. I just spit it out too...

  5. I was so glad to read your post. Eating locally and seasonally whenever possible is always the best. Your asparagus soup looks really fresh and delicious.

    Cheers to you.

  6. I've been doing some of the same reading :-) We started shopping at farmer's markets a couple of summers ago and try hard to eat locally and seasonally. Now we're considering purchasing a CSA share. You're absolutely right when you say there's no comparison between January and spring asparagus. Organic grape tomatoes taste so much sweeter to me, too. Now I'm off to check the recipe for asparagus soup...