Following through on my previous post celebrating Hatch Chile season, I bring you a list of fruits and vegetables now being harvested in mid-America. Eating with the seasons means changing your diet to eat with the harvests, which means eating what is in season during its season. It also means canning or preserving a seasonal fruit or vegetable during its season to enjoy while when it is out of season. This is one of the ways we align our lifestyle to the natural rhythm of the Earth. Eating produce in its season is generally considered a more nutritious choice because it is fresh from the ground and has been allowed to fully ripen in your area instead of picked when under-ripe and shipped to you. Eating local produce in season is also considered a more environmentally friendly choice because your fruit and vegetables travel a shorter distance from the farm to your table.
Seasonal eaters of local produce also say that food tastes better when it comes freshly harvested from a few miles away than harvested early and ripened in a dark storage container while being shipped across the country. Produce loses moisture in transit, which damages its flavor. Refrigeration to prevent spoilage damages flavors even further. Nutrients are also lost, especially for produce that is subject to radiation and sprayed-on preservatives. Most people who eat the same diet all year long have no idea how much better their produce can taste because they get used to consuming it month and month when flavor, quality, and nutrition have already been comprised.
Ready to eat or preserve right now in my part of the country:
So does this mean giving up cucumbers from October to April? Yes, it does. Cucumber season is approximately May to September. Opting not to buy non-regional produce out of season is a sacrifice. However, eating a cucumber with nutrients, flavor, and shelf-life significantly reduced is also a sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice of your money for substandard produce and a sacrifice of your overall nutrition. Eating a cucumber that has been treated with radiation and coated with preservative so that it could survive its out-of-season journey to your local grocery store magnifies this sacrifice, giving you a cucumber that pales in comparison to a fresh, robust, nutrient-dense version of the same fruit. From this perspective it can be argued that you actually get less of a cucumber for the convenience of its availability out of season. Buying produce out of season compromises (sacrifices) wellness. Eating with the seasons is a sacrifice that support wellness.
As for declaring a holiday to coincide with a particular growing season, well, turns out there is already one in place. Good thing too, since a lot of crops are coming in right now. The autumn equinox has its own holiday of Mabon, the ancient Celtic festival with themes similar to our American Thanksgiving. In 2015 Mabon will be observed on September 23rd. Like the spring equinox, this is one of the two days per year that there is an equal amount of daylight and night as the sun moves directly over the equator. Until 1863, the American Thanksgiving was celebrated on Mabon, after which Abraham Lincoln moved the holiday to the month of November. Franklin Roosevelt moved back it a week after the Depression, hoping to spark holiday shopping a little earlier and then an Act of Congress finally moved it to the last Thursday of November.
So if Thanksgiving was actually Mabon, what of our beloved “Turkey Day” story about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock? They landed at Cape Cod in November and had to sit tight while they waited out storms and seas too rough to sail. They didn’t make it to Plymouth until late December. The famous meal shared with the Native Americans took place a year later, in 1621 at the end of the harvest, which was likely mid-to-late September in Massachusetts and not November. So there you have it, folks. I don’t think I can improve upon this except to say that we can glean two holidays out of this if we like–Mabon and the American Thanksgiving–and that, my friends, takes the sting out of seasonal sacrifice, no?