Salivating in Springtime
A peek into the greenhouse these days provides quite the surprising sight for springtime Oregon: bunches of green tomatoes already growing large, teasing us as we’ve abstained from the ubiquitous red fruits throughout the winter (after burning through quart after quart of homemade tomato sauce by February). While these immature ‘toms’ show much promise, and as varieties are increasingly adapted to our Willamette Valley climate for the earliest eating, the real treats lie ripe and ready in greenhouses and fields at this early juncture of the season.
Colossal beets white, golden, and the characteristic deep red, all with marvelous lush greens flowing upwards. Crunchy sweet and complex carrots, always begging to be eaten immediately after plucking, brilliant orange along with a fun tie-dyed scarlet variety. The joy and thrill of pulling a springtime root veggie to see what’s going on under there – doubles, twists, lighting bolt shaped, county fair blue ribbon perfect – provides all the drama for us at the farm even before sitting down to chow.
Deep green and jagged kales continue to grow abundantly as they have for months alongside the chard, spinach, and various salad greens. Fresh asparagus is like nothing else, and I usually long for the next spring right about in June after the edible shoots are done coming up. To think that we’re already too advanced in the year to still enjoy the sprouting broccoli and brussel sprouts is funny, considering that this whole time we’ve been looking down south to California and Mexico to supply us with produce. We’ve been in the heart of growing season in this mild valley for a good while now if we consider that every season offers its own nourishing touch.
Buying and eating and otherwise supporting local is sure made simplest in midsummer when warm weather favorites stock the shelves and tables of markets and grocers, but real locavore colors show in the appreciation for the twists and turns of fresh food throughout the calendar year. Not only is fresh and local the most nutritious and tastebud charming, but this food that comes in the cooler times is often the most nutrient rich known to humankind, giving us the vitamins and minerals needed to keep us healthy and vital. I feel that this is one of the most overlooked aspects of eating local food aside from supporting the local economy and getting the richest flavors – the highest nutritional potential of food is lost over thousands of miles of transportation and our own organisms have evolved to respond best to what regional farmers over centuries have been able to put on the table at any given time.
As I check in on the greenhouse to pull up fresh veggies from under the ground for mealtime, I turn to the young ambitious tomato plants and pinch those little blossom shoots that dare to start fruiting so early. Like a proud and attentive parent, I want them to focus on their primary vegetative growth before they spend any energy trying to push out a few fruits. The time for juicy ripe tomatoes will come soon enough, and in the meantime I thank fellow farmers like George and Marco, who put me on to the delicacy of shelling and enjoying a good fava bean in the spring. The peas and young potatoes are right around the corner, just look around a bit, and have your forks ready!