It is almost November. For those of us who shop at farmer’s markets, the change from a prodigious summer to a solemn autumn is becoming clear.
I’ve tracked the seasons based on the produce ever since we started shopping at the farmer’s market years ago. But, I’ve never known if there was a reason (beyond the characteristics of a plant) for the produce of a season. In Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle“, I came across this paragraph that I found wonderfully illuminating, mapping the stages in a plant’s life to the season and thereby the produce that is available each season:
“To recover an intuitive sense of what will be in season throughout the year, picture a season of foods unfolding as if from one single plant. Take a minute to study this creation – an imaginary plant that bears over the course of one growing season a cornucopia of all the different vegetable products we can harvest.nbsp; We’ll call it a vegetannual.nbsp; Picture its life passing before your eyes alike a time-lapse film: first, in the cool early spring, shoots poke up out of the ground.nbsp; Small leaves appear, then bigger leaves.nbsp; As the plant grows up into the sunshine and the days grow longer, flower buds will appear, followed by small green fruits.nbsp; Under midsummer’s warm sun, the fruits grow larger, riper and more colorful. As days shorten into the autumn, these mature into hard-shelled fruits with appreciable seeds inside.nbsp; Finally, as the days grow cool, the vegetannual may hoard the sugars its leaves have made, pulling them down into a storage unit of some kind: a tuber, bulb or root.
So goes the year. First the leaves: spinach, kale, lettuce, and chard (here, that’s April and May). Then more mature heads of leaves and flower heads: cabbage, romaine, broccoli, and cauliflower (May–June). Then tender young fruit-set: snow peas, baby squash, cucumbers (June), followed by green beans, green peppers, and small tomatoes (July). Then more mature, colorfully ripened fruits: beefsteak tomatoes, eggplants, red and yellow peppers (late July–August). Then the large, hard-shelled fruits with developed seeds inside: cantaloupes, honeydews, watermelons, pumpkins, winter squash (August–September). Last come the root crops, and so ends the produce parade.“