I have to say it: One week from today I get to go pick up my first CSA* share for the season, and I am SO excited.
Go ahead. Roll your eyes if you like. Call me names. Point your fingers, or whisper to your neighbor. Maybe you wonder who can eat all those vegetables all summer long. Maybe you think I’m kind of a snob because I must think I eat better than you when I consume that many green and colorful things. Maybe you would like to point out to me that I am actually quite privileged to be able to afford, and eat, and care about vegetables so much. I know this last one is true. I am privileged to be able to afford, and eat, and care about vegetables so much.
I grow weary and sad when I hear reports of poor, inner-city dwellers who do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, stores in their proximity selling mainly processed, pre-prepared and packaged items. Or, there are the stories told about young children who cannot name a broccoli or a pepper when it is held up before their eyes. Heartbreaking. It is distressing to me that so many of God’s created, beloved creatures have been so separated from the fruit, and the vegetable, of creation.
I do not take for granted the privilege of eating all the colors of the rainbow, straight from the land, in the place where I dwell. I do not. And, I promise to savor and enjoy it every day this summer, starting with next Saturday.
I’m getting off track, though, because I was afraid you were calling me names like Veggie Lover and Garden Girl. And even while those names ring true — my love of eating vegetables does verge on nerdiness — I want to tell you why I most love my CSA share, and why I am really and truly excited for next Saturday. It has everything to do with seasons and rhythm.
When I go to fill my bag at our CSA stand, I don’t always know exactly what will be there, but having picked up shares for the last half a decade, my taste buds have learned what to crave. Triggers within my body know, at the start, to expect bright green, crispy, pungent things. I have come to know the growing season begins with things that seem pure wild, like the long, soft tendrils of pea shoots. Flavors are bright and sometimes surprising in the early weeks of gardening. Think of rhubarb, or ramps, or one of my favorites: the curly and pungent garlic scape. To learn these rhythms has been a privilege, and an exciting carousel of flavor and fun.
With the CSA, I’ve learned to pace myself through the year in fruits and vegetables, but it isn’t exactly new news. I’ve long appreciated the rhythm of seasonal tastes. As a child, my best friend’s family owned a U-Pick Redberry and Pumpkin Farm. I remember the strawberries of June that we picked together as a gift for our two dads the day before Father’s Day. I remember still, wearing my nightshirt, sleep in my eyes, and bringing the hidden flat of berries out to my dad at the breakfast table. They were sweet and still tasted of the warm sun that made them gleam in the field. One time, I got to share in another part of the farm’s rhythm by sitting on a special planting seat behind the tractor, planting pumpkin seeds that would be ready by Halloween.
In deep summer, my Mom would lightly boil sliced zucchini and summer squash with thin rounds of onion. We ate it swimming with butter, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. We only ever ate that in summer because that is when it was available.
Even later than that, my grandfather, a hobby farmer, would bring us huge black bags brimming over with ears of Silver Queen sweet corn. Have you ever had the pleasure of eating that best-ever, delicate sweet corn variety? If you have, I am sure it was late summer. Unless, like us, you sat at the kitchen table for hours, slicing boiled corn off the cob into freezer bags to be eaten all year. Too young for the sharpest knives, I would sit in the humid kitchen, mesmerized by my grandfathers’ hands rhythmically cutting corn, ear by ear, kernel by kernel into piling, steaming mounds.
And, if I may brag about one more privilege that I’ve had in my life, it is the joy and juice-streaming-down-your-arms goodness of mango season in India. No mango that I have eaten or ever will eat, imported into our American grocery stores will ever, ever compare to eating an Indian mango, in season. It is heat, and sun, and a sticky-sweet, nearly piney flavor, and I can feel the pull of the flesh from the pit between my teeth.
I love my CSA share and the rhythm of the land that it teaches me. I like that it is repetitive. I like being reminded, year after year, of created things put into motion by my creator God. I like watching, and waiting, and tasting all that God designed. It can seem slow while we wait for that which we want, like a strawberry in season. And, it can seem remarkably fast, like when I take home 12 peppers or 20 tomatoes because that is what the sun and the rain did in a week.
I find it beautiful, and impressive, that we stay in tune with our creative God by tasting and experiencing the rhythm of nourishment. God, who formed our bodies, fashioned a whole world of food to feed us as well. Eating from the land is one of the liveliest ways we can draw close to, know, and appreciate our maker.
I’m hoping that you’ll get a taste or two of your own this summer. Cheers, to nourishment designed by the Creator!
Note: CSA stands for Community Shared Agriculture. When small, local farms get financial backing from individual community members for seeds, planting and farming needs, individuals then receive a weekly share of vegetables, usually throughout the summer months. I would also like to mention that in the face of food shortage and lack of awareness among many about how to prepare and eat fresh foods, my CSA partners with area organizations to donate a portion of its produce and share tips on preparation and usage. I love that too.
Photos by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist and Adli Wahid on Unsplash
Loving vegetables came late in my life. I wonder if one reason for Our Lord’s incarnation was so that the Lord God could enjoy eating vegetables too.
” … reason for Our Lord’s incarnation was so that the Lord God could enjoy eating vegetables too.”
Love this, Daniel… !
One of my best memories in life takes me back to the summer before my senior year of college. I was living with my folks at the time, who had recently moved back to their place of origin, South Haven MI, and I was fortunate enough to work as a “hired hand” working with my uncles and cousin on my grandfather’s ancestral farm in Casco Township. Among other things—diversified farming at its best—we grew cauliflower and peaches, and I witnessed the growth and cultivation cycle from late May through early August. I didn’t see cauliflower through to its final stages, first in Sept. tying leaves around the cauliflower head, so that as it grew bigger and fuller, the “flower” would stay white in its own shade, and then harvesting in early Nov, cutting the heads from the stalk and tossing them on a slow-moving farm wagon. But I did see peaches through their cycle, from thinning and pruning, to final picking in mid-July through August, grading and packing them and loading the farm truck by early evening (farming uses all available daylight in summer—I often worked until 8 p.m. coming home to take my bath in Lake MI). My uncle would then drive the truck through the night to Detroit’s market, where 3/4 of his truck load was for regular customers, Greek and Arab family grocers, and the last dozen or so bushels sold to individual buyers. I accompanied him to market several times, mostly driving so he could get some sleep, which I don’t think farmers get much of in the summer. Thanks for this essay—it brought up this memory!
Thanks for sharing your own relationship with the land, Jeff.
Fresh Indian mangoes in season and fresh Philippines mangoes in season: I’ve had both and they are both equally good. But it’s true that the best ones in Philippines are a variety called “Indian mangoes.” Just don’t eat too many at one time.
That’s pretty funny!
Katy, are you familiar with the cookbook Simply in Season? It is filled with recipes using fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit. I purchased my copy many years ago at Global Gifts in GR but I think it might still be available at The Bridge in Holland, MI.
Elaine, I definitely know this cookbook! It is wonderful. Interestingly, I was introduced to it by my mother-in-law, in India!
Love this, Katy!!