Locally Grown

Monday

Sumac ripens along field borders, all but unnoticed in our daily rush.
  • Cool wet weather all summer long delayed the usual local harvest of zucchini, tomatoes, and corn.  Besides, most of the farms on Long Island are being eliminated by suburban sprawl, and by the simple fact that the farmers have decided there are better ways to live.  But finally, most have arrived.
  • We hardly notice.  A few people try to be locavores, and I appreciate getting things at least from nearby upstate or New Jersey, but the fact is transportation and the selection of traits has made almost everything local.  New Zealand lamb, Brazilian beef, Nicaraguan bananas, Mexican tomatoes _ I expect to get these and more any time all year round.  More than that, the varieties of local zucchini or cucumbers or apples I search out will most likely be identical to those from global sources.
  • This does not distress me.  In olden days, only fortunate countries like France were able to have the culinary resources now available to everyone every day.  I am grateful that in deepest winter I can feast on strawberries at breakfast, or fresh green beans at night.  And still enjoy very expensive Long Island tomatoes from a few farms out east.

Tuesday

The solitary apple tree on the harbor is having a hard year, with dying lower branches and only a few fruits.
  • An accidental apple tree at water’s edge illustrates the dilemma of organic farming.  With no use of fertilizer or pesticides the fruits are small, mottled, hard, and riddled with worm holes.  Some years there is no crop at all.
  • Many of us do not realize how much effort goes into apple culture.  Trees must be kept reasonably high, trimmed constantly much like grape vines or apples are almost impossible to harvest.  In spring, efforts are necessary _ sometimes unsuccessful _ to protect delicate blossoms from late frost.  If native bees are in short supply, professional hive-keepers must arrive at the proper time for pollination.  And even organic fruit must use at least “natural” bug sprays like Bt.  Finally, even with machine help, there is considerable manual work getting all the apples picked and packed at the right time and sent off, often across the continent, to reach our supermarkets where we take their availability for granted.
  • This apple tree might supply a few families around here, if we were careful and lucky and spent a lot of time working with it.  But it is already way too big for effective use, I’m not sure there are enough bees around, and the constant air pollution from the nearby road _ not to mention what might be in the groundwater _ might not be good for us anyway.

Wednesday

Beans and tomatoes from a friend’s garden are organically flawed but delicious.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • Overly complicated recipes spoil our palates

Thursday

End of season finds boats cramming docks as clouds thicken.
  • Some people have perfect pitch, and for them much of the amateur music the rest of us enjoy is a painfully untuned torture.  Some experts can identify one beer from another, but blind tastes also show that most folks cannot tell the difference, especially after the first drink.  Our senses are marvelous and quite perfected for our daily needs, but not as highly tuned as those of animals. 
  • That is why I look with suspicion on current food snobbery.  To be honest, I think a lot of the current diners who rave over specialized heritage or rare foods are engaged in what has been called “food pornography.”  Written descriptions of what they are eating overwhelm the actual experience.  I doubt most of these experts could tell the difference between types of tomatoes if blindfolded.
  • That goes double for “organic” food.  I understand we should minimize use of fertilizer and pesticide, I fully support being very careful with genetic modification.  But minimizing and being careful is not the same as pretending we can avoid them altogether.  And, again, with very few able to taste the difference nor to prove there is any kind of scientific effect on our bodies, this is just another snobbish way to claim you are somehow better and more in tune with the universe than someone else.  

Friday

Wild grapes encapsulate the difference that domestication has made in our food supply.
  • Locally grown tomatoes have arrived in stores, and I enjoy them more than those raised in greenhouses the rest of the year.  On the other hand, these commercial tomatoes are indistinguishable from those from
    backyards and given to me by happy neighbors.  Same for zucchini and cucumbers, which I accept gratefully.
  • We have become a bit impoverished by monoculture, and have perhaps gone too far to select the sweetest corn and best-keeping tomato.  Seeds and plants nurtured by amateurs are much the same as those on industrial farms.  I’m happy someone is trying to bring back heritage species, although I myself cannot taste the difference.

Saturday

Clams remain about the only truly local commercial harvest, a vestige of abundance long departed.
Two tomatoes presenting themselves from overflowing bins at a farmer’s market.  Each tries to outshine the other, as busy hands are picking up fruit around them.
“I’m bigger than you are, you know,” says one.
“Yeah, but I look bright and shiny and ripe,” claims the other.
“But I’m the real deal,” insists the first.  “Completely organic, heritage, traditional.”
“Pooh, pooh.  I’ve just as many genes and carbon atoms as you do,” scoffs the second.  “Pesticides carefully washed off, fertilizers completely integrated into my superior presentation.  You’re a loser.”
“But I am real, honest, natural.”
“So what do I look like, chopped liver?  Your whole presentation is a hoax.”
“At least I am more expensive,” shouts the first, turning a bit redder in the blazing sun.

“Which means I am going first,” exults the second, as it is plucked into a bag and carried off.

Sunday

Kansas (the sunflower state) grows these as a crop, but here they are purely ornamental for the birds.
Frantic finish
Fruit fulfilled
Fitful fun

Summer’s done

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s