Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just a Taste

Well-stocked on staples, it's been over a month since I've needed to go to the grocery store.  Canned and frozen will get you by, but I become ravenous for fresh vegetables, and I went through the produce department yesterday like a kid in a candy store.  Salinas, Castroville, Watsonville...the Salad Bowl of California...are just a few hours away from the Sacramento area.  The first thing that caught my eye was the artichokes.  This is absolutely the best time of year for that unlikely vegetable.  (Who first looked at those spiny leaves and that deadly choke and thought, "Gee, I think I'll try that"?)  A lot of people wait until summer when the globes are big and green, but we aficionados know that the young ones are most tender, and the unattractive brown tinge means they've been kissed by frost and will be the sweetest.  I used to cut off and throw away the stem until I realized that, peeled and thrown in the pot, it is as flavorful as the heart.  Oh, yum.  The young asparagus was on sale at less than half its winter price.  Put that in the basket.  Grab up some deep emerald-green broccoli.  I'd just seen a recipe for cauliflower gratin.  Must have some of that.  A modicum of reason much could I cook before the vegetables would go bad?  Unloading my treasures at home, then came the question of which to have first.  Of course I opted for the artichoke...that first taste of spring.  It's still too early for rhubarb.  My mother was raised in the era when stewed rhubarb was dished up every spring as a "blood thinner," to combat the idea that blood became sluggish in winter (probably from all that sitting around after the fall harvest).  All I know is, I got rhubarb every year.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver gives the best rationale for eating local, eating seasonal that I've ever read.  One, she's an excellent writer; informed, intelligent, and funny.  Two, it's a tripartite book with contributions by her husband, who gives a more scientific perspective, and their teenage daughter, who provides a kid's reaction to the family experiment for a year to eat nothing other than that they either grew or raised themselves or came from within a fifty-mile radius of their farm.  Kingsolver is a common-sense conservationist and she's made a believer of me and really changed my approach to life.  (Who knew about OP and F1 seed designations?)  I just thumbed through the book again and had forgotten about her recipes in most chapters.  I must read it again. 

Rain is predicted for tomorrow.  It makes me appreciate the taste of spring weather we've enjoyed this week.  I think I'll have asparagus tonight.


Linda Cox said...

You ALWAYS jump the gun on spring but you might be on target this year. Luna, my brushing addicted tabby, has been throwing off buckets of fur for the last couple of days or so and the Farmer's Almanac predicts above average temperatures and below average precipitation through April. Time to smother the weeds and plan the garden.

Kathryn said...

Well I'll be darned - we had an artichoke on Thursday night and asparagus last night, but I live pretty darn close to the markets. I must admit that it has been a long time since I've had a GOOD artichoke, and I had been wondering if I had just lost my knack in picking them, or if the strains were getting strange. The heart to this one was just fine but the leaves each had a hard spot in what should have been the creamy treasure, and I have upped my cooking time to try to solve that problem. But I'm glad to know that this is a good time to buy, and I shall certainly check out the book, as I have heard of the rationale of eating local and eating seasonal!