Seasonal Sacrifice

Since state and national parks are now being trashed by Covidiots, I’ve resorted to day hiking on the paths MUCH less traveled. Trails with no amenities. Trails with no major attractions such as destination waterfalls and the like. Trails too difficult, long, remote, not connected to family campgrounds, or without cell service; all of which usually deter the vandals and other destructive types now making national news. Assholes.

I had no idea it was toadstool season before I set out on this week’s trek but I could not have been more enchanted. Each encounter was like stumbling upon a hidden treasure. Some were pale and dreamy like the darling shown above. Others were bright and shiny like the dazzler below. That moldy black leaf appeared to be glued on by some supernatural mushroom force so I did not disturb it lest I damage the ‘shroom, ruin the photo, and become just another asshole vandal on the trail.  

The best one became the calendar page for my end-of-month highlight reel so you’ll have to wait a few weeks to see it. But there were also these ruffly ones, ranging from yellow to orange …

I have no idea what might be edible or not, but even so, in a national forest I wouldn’t forage or harvest even if I did know. Y’all are aware we’re not supposed to do that, right? I’m talking to you, tall blonde trail runner who dug up moss and ferns and carried them out of the forest in plastic bags as if it was a goddamn free nursery for entitled hipster assholes. I hope she was covered in ticks when she got back to her car. But back to my enchantment.

I keep thinking it would be a good idea to learn wild edibles so I could forage someday where it is legal, Karen, but that will have to wait. It’s Hatch Chile season. I wait all year for them, like Kramer with with Mackinaw peaches. (That’s a Seinfeld reference.) For the next few weeks I’ll be consuming Hatches like folks hoarded toilet paper back in April, which means insatiably. And aside from the Yum factor, every time Hatch Chile season rolls around I get newly fired-up to eat with the seasons. I swear this is part of their natural power — the chiles, I mean. My enchantment extends across untold numbers of species.

Eating with the seasons means changing one’s 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 lifestyles to the natural rhythm of the Earth. This used to be a necessity, of course. We can revive it as a wellness ritual.

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 soon in Mercyburg:

SeptemberSeptember-OctoberOctober-November
CantaloupesApplesBroccoli
CucumbersAsian PearsCabbage
EgglplantGreens 
PeachesHerbs 
PeppersMuscadines 
RaspberriesPumpkins 
Sweet CornSquash 
 Sweet Potatoes 
 Tomatoes 
 Watermelons 

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 can 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.

But as you’ve heard me say many times, if you want to do something it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.

Be well, friends. Don’t take shit from protected places. Don’t overuse those places faster than they can recover. And don’t vandalize them.

— Mercy

P.S.  If you are interested in finding the harvest seasons for produce in your area, try PickYourOwn.org and LocalHarvest.org.

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