Recently a woman told me that she doesn’t eat a local, seasonal diet because she’s afraid she’d get bored. “I’m so used to being able to get anything anytime,” she said. She couldn’t be more mistaken. I’d be willing to wager a hefty bet that I get excited about what’s on my plate more often than she does.
Today I went foraging. I collected red clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense), which I’ll dry and use to make wonderfully spongy, slightly sweet red clover bread. Red clover is in peak bloom right now, and that will only last another couple of weeks. That’s okay, the edible flower season is far from over. Today I spotted basswood (Tilia americana) about a week away from its bloom season. I’ll come back in a week and collect those honey-scented clusters for Ellen to make into one of my favorite wines.
I also collected burdock “cardoons” (the immature flower stalks of Arctium lappa) today, which I’ll marinate for an Italian-style antipasto, and pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) shoots that I’m going to use in a quiche. Both plants will soon be out of season, so I’m making the most of them now. That’s okay, because when they’re gone it will be time for milkweed florets, daylilies, and mulberries.
After my foraging jaunt I went to the farmers’ market. I bought strawberries and sugar snap peas. Neither was in season yet when I left for a working trip three weeks ago. I love both, and hadn’t tasted either since last year. Heaven. Of course, those will be going out of season by the end of next month, but that’s okay because then it will be time for cherries, new potatoes, the first summer vegetables…you get the idea.
Sometimes one food stays in season for so long, or there is so much of it, that it does take some culinary experimentation to keep it interesting (note: not because I can’t have it, as that woman supposed, but because I have too much of it!). Last year my CSA farmer inundated us with cucumbers. When it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to keep up by eating them fresh, I got creative with pickle ideas. The maple bread-’n'-butter pickles I came up with became one of my all-time favorites.
I like having choices and abundance as much as the next person. But for me those aren’t about anything anytime. They are about the right thing at the right time.
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith