Christina and I went to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I wish I could have taken lots of pretty pictures, but sadly, the day was rainy, wet and grey; not much like the sunny summer day shown here (from the market’s website). The rain did not dampen my spirits, however, when I was able to find Rancho Gordo beans (I bought Christmas Lima, flageolet, Midnight and Borlotti beans to bring home in my luggage), my favorite cheddar-chive scone from Noe Valley Bakery, and lots of fresh, local produce that I will turn into a (hopefully) fabulous meal for Miss Christina. We got cherries and strawberries (fresh fruit!! Oh, how I’ve missed you!), fava beans, asparagus, green onion and mixed spicy greens (dandelion, wild arugula, baby chard, spinach) and lots of herbs: lemon verbena, rosemary, sage, tarragon. They all smelled divine and it was very hard not to simply ask for one of everything.
While I was wandering the stalls, marveling at local citrus, olive oil and avocados, and poking my nose into various bundles of herbs, I overheard the following conversation:
Customer: Do you have any more beets?
Grower: No, I’m sorry, the season is over.
Customer (puzzled): Season?
Grower (patiently): Yes. Beets are a winter crop. The growing season is over.
It’s easy to forget, in these strange times, that foods that are grown in the Earth have a season. Most people could tell you that summer is the time for tomatoes and fresh corn; some know that strawberries and rhubarb grow in spring. Beets, however, are in stores all year long, and the Ferry Plaza market in San Francisco is not just a farmer’s market, but a slice of the city’s culture and therefore a tourist attraction. I can only imagine how often these growers have to patiently explain that there will be no strawberries in July, no asapargus in December. Evan California, with it’s warm sunshine and long and productive growing season, is still subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature. And after all, unless you frequent farmer’s markets, have a CSA, or grow your own, how would you know that vegetables each have a season? That kale and leeks like cool weather, and are grown in spring and fall, but not in the heat of mid-summer? You can always find kale at the supermarket. Same goes for berries, lettuce, carrots and so many other foods; unless we pay attention, it’s easy to ignore where our food comes from, how it gets to us, who produced it, and most of all the magic of that perfect combination of seasonal weather patterns that brings the berry, seed or shoot to our table.