Ways to Enjoy the Abundant Harvest

September 2008
A simple September meal of farmers’ market fare including sweet and juicy heirloom tomatoes, grilled sweet corn and miraculous peaches is a highlight to savor through all the eating experiences of the year. There seems to be a joyful resonance in the sweetness that is transmitted to us, that we can taste. At the very least, our taste buds sing and we revel in the show-stopping flavors.
True local, harvest food is organically grown, heirloom when possible and grown in healthy soil. This food is uplifting to us on every level: nourishing, flavorful, a colorful pleasure. It connects us to the ground and community where we live. The buzz phrase requirements for wellness are “body, mind and spirit,” and locally grown fresh food seems to win in every category.
Here are a number of ways to fold this splendor into your daily life.
·         Find a farmers’ market near you and buy some of this delicious bounty. Farmers’ markets (also known as green markets) are returning to towns and cities everywhere. They are treasured by farmers and consumers alike. Found deep in the middle of the largest cities and in smaller towns across America, farmers’ markets are usually outdoors and always colorful and festive. Local farmers, bakers, and food-based cottage industries set up in a communal area, once or twice a week, to sell food to their community.
·         If you don’t already have one, consider planning for a garden. There is nothing like harvest food to inspire you to grow your own tomatoes, herbs, and whatever you love. I’d suggest you buy a really good book on the subject—Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is a classic. Talk to friends who garden to get their advice. Start small, making your first garden no bigger than you can comfortably handle.
·         Investigate buying heirloom seeds. One great introduction to heirloom seeds is to browse around the non-profit Seed Saver site, www.seedsavers.org. Since 1975, Seed Savers Exchange members have passed on approximately one million samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners. Read Amy Goldman’s divine books on growing heirloom tomatoes, squash and melons. You can learn more at her site, Rare Forms, www.rareforms.com. Many heirloom seeds are now available from seed catalogs, including Heirloom Seeds www.heirloomseeds.com, Rare Seeds www.rareseeds.com and Seed Savers www.seedsavers.org.
·         Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Joining a CSA is the next best thing to having your own garden.  A CSA is a community of people supporting a local garden or farm either by work or by paying a share of expenses, and thereby becoming entitled to a season’s fresh fruits and vegetables (or more, such as milk and honey, depending on the CSA). The CSA can either have an arrangement with a particular farm, or they can lease farmland hire their own gardener or farmer to work it. To learn more visit, http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.
·         If you would like to buy produce and/or other products throughout the harvest season from a local farm, but don’t want as formal a relationship as a CSA, you may want to establish a “subscription” membership to the farm. With a subscription you commit to buying a set amount of food from one farm (usually on a weekly pre-paid basis) and thereby ensure a constant supply.
·         Consider starting a cooperative garden. These are springing up everywhere, and it is likely there are some near you.
·         Visit pick-your-own farms during the harvest season. In most states, the department of agriculture will provide you with a brochure listing all pick-your-own farms in your state, county by county. Some pick-your-own farms specialize in one particular fruit or vegetable, such as apples or pumpkins.
It can be exciting to step aside from shopping exclusively in conventional food stores and find food in other ways. In fact, you may find the most economical and abundant sources of whole, organic foods year-round are found outside of your supermarkets. And there are unexpected rewards in alternative shopping, not the least of which is reconnecting with the natural world, the seasons and learning how your food is grown.
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