I ate the sticker on the tomato. They’re insidious. Hidden on every piece of produce, down to the last pea.
My fault for not eating in season. These tomatoes were grown far, far away.
I try to eat locally. Tomatoes are grown in winter greenhouses here. That’s worse for the environment though. It’s a larger carbon footprint to heat New England greenhouses than to send trucks from somewhere tomatoes are in season–an illusion meant to fool the polar-bear loving ecoconscious. If I were really ecoconscious, I’d eat tomatoes in July.
The solution…cabbage. It’s what Yankee farmers would’ve eaten. Who likes cabbage? Hungry people, that’s who.
It’s the “lean season” in New England. Most haven’t heard of “the lean season.” It doesn’t exist here anymore. It was the gap between when preserved foods would’ve been running low but spring growing season had not yet arrived. Some called it “the hungry times.”
We’re never hungry. Our shelves are too full.
The farmers who once owned my land would’ve laughed at the idea of fresh tomatoes in winter. “Today, I want a salad.” No different from “Two men walked into a bar…” A joke to pass time spent waiting for spring.
Those farmers would’ve gone to their root cellars and dry storage pulling out beets, carrots, winter squash, dried beans. There’d be preserves, pickles, breads baked with stored grain. They’d listen to birds knowing, “Soon, it’ll be time to plant.”
They’d have hoped the Weather Channel–I mean the Farmer’s Almanac–was wrong about the foot of snow coming this Wednesday. Snow extends the lean season a few more critical weeks.
I get a lot of my food–by modern standards–from farms year-round. I grow, can, and preserve. What started as a “holy shit we can’t pay the bills” moment years ago evolved into something more. A sense simplicity fills the heart more than shelves full of things.
I get cluttered, I think, by the choices available to me. Yankee farmers had no choice. Do, or do without.
I think some “do without” is the way to go.
Last summer, I was sick. The garden turned from a peaceful refuge to a jungle, saying “You’d starve if you had to do this for real.”
What If I had to do this for real? No pickles, dried beans, jam, winter squash. No canned tomatoes…Starvation.
I never have to do anything for real. I pretend. There’s always a safe road to travel in modern life. A store to fall back on. I can play at things, do things half-assed. Do I want to save the world? Be great? Or do I want to eat a tomato?
What if I had to do this for real? If it was my only option…there was no turning back? Not just about producing my own food–about anything, really. All the things I’ve dreamed about and never finished.
The “I’m going to’s” in life…
I found the weight for my pressure canner. It’s goes on top, sealing it, raising the pressure and temperature inside enough to kill bacteria–a few pounds of pressure is essentially the difference between life and death in food preservation.
Maybe that’s the secret…to get a good result, raise the pressure. Maybe that applies to more than just food. To do it for real, the pressure gets turned up. Every time. But the end result is amazing.
It’s the lean season and I just ate the sticker on the tomato. I’m no purist.
What if I had to do this for real…?” I’d have to go all-in or I’d starve.
The lean season’s a time for contemplation. Hope. Listening to birds sing, waiting for the first sprouts to poke through the ground–renewal.
Time to take that final rest before work begins–seeds, greenhouses, planting, weeding–knowing that when it does, I’m grateful, because the work I do now produces miracles for the following year.
This year, I get the sense it’s not just about farming, but about other things, too.
As it should be.