By Roxanne Crittenden, Capay Valley Farm Shop
This week I did something I hardly ever do. I took a walk through the grocery section of a prominent big-box store. The produce section sported small rounded carrots in plastic bags, grapefruit from Texas, apples from Washington and green beans from Mexico just in time for Thanksgiving. It didn’t look at all like the Medium Box I brought home last week, positively overflowing with mustard greens, lettuce, radishes, beets. Ah yes—greens and root vegetables. It must be winter!
I am glad this is not my first year easting seasonally. It was a delicious and eye-opening experience, but not without challenges. I recall the first winter my college housemates and I bought a farm box. In November I pulled a celery root out of the box. It was bulbous and full of folds and wrinkles and smelled vaguely of celery. I didn’t have a clue what it was, and neither did any of my housemates. After a week, we weren’t any closer to eating it. Finally, I called a farmer friend of mine and described the mystery item. She told me what it was and referred me to a recipe.
By the end of the season, I had two good celery root recipes in my cooking repertoire and I frequently used it as a soup base. By the end of the second year, I could pull a celery root out of the box and have at least four good ideas of ways I could fix it for dinner that night. While I’ve learned a few more tricks since then, those four recipes are still my go-to solutions when there’s celeriac lurking in the bottom of my share, or the bottom of my fridge. I don’t just use it—I enjoy it! I look forward to winter as celery root season. But it didn’t come entirely easily.
There are a hundred reasons to eat seasonally and eat locally— environmental reasons, health reasons, social reasons. Fewer fossil fuels are burned in transportation, the produce is fresher and more nutritious, we are supporting our local farmers. But the reasons that are the most inspiring may require a closer look and more than one cycle of the seasons to fully appreciate.
After that first year with my first farm share back in college, I recognized the fruits and vegetables as we cycled through them. I realized that a tomato in October was gift granted by an Indian Summer and that the very sweetest apples appeared in November. And I knew, come February, that the celery root would be going the way of the turnips, beets and winter squashes until the following fall.
Slowly, slowly the rhythm of seasons seeps from our produce, through our hands and mouths, into our brains and into our hearts. The first year without tomatoes year-round is difficult. The joy of discovering new foods—like celery root or water melon radish—is balanced by the sobering realization that these are predominant features of the winter food landscape and you’d better find a few different ways you enjoy them. With experience, armed with a sense of adventure and a little gratitude, we may meet new foods and old-food-friends with anticipation and joy. That includes not only tomatoes, peaches and melons, but radishes, winter squash and celery roots!