Strawberries stand shoulder to shoulder with dark, sweet cherries, and the first of the blueberries! Cucumbers are begging to be sliced, sugar snap peas are the perfect cool, sweet no-cook veggie, and I'm just having way too much fun with cocktails, which you would know, if you were following my instagram! Easy to remember over here: @emily.hursh
You'll also get treated to pictures and videos of my adorable cats, aerial stunts, and of course, Farmers' Market finds!
All that goodness is enough to leave me feeling a little overwhelmed: should I relinquish the strawberries for the year in favor of those blueberries? Am I really ready for cucumbers? English shelling peas, or fava beans? Young garlic cloves, or scapes?
It may not be a problem you thought a locavore would have. The dilemma of choice is usually thought of as the domain as the mega mart shopper.
So, how do I choose? Well, ideally, I don't. I make a plan that makes a space for each of these exquisite flavors while I have them: strawberries Monday and Tuesday, freezing anything that's left Tuesday evening. Cherries Wednesday...lots and lots of cherries, eaten out of hand with wild abandon, and maybe cooked with sugar and cocoa powder, or preserved with bourbon and syrup...mmmmm...and blueberries next week. Don't even think about preserving them. There won't be any left.
Last week I grate up one of those extra flavorful funny-looking cukes and stored it in the fridge in a jar of sake over night. Strained, and served over ice, it was perfect refreshing!
Tonight I'm sautéing up broccoli rabe with garlic scapes, and pairing it with pre-made crab cakes from the fishmonger.
Tomorrow maybe I'll have breakfast for dinner, and make fava bean puree to spread on the toast. This is a perfect plan because fava beans require time and attention, and breakfasts are the domain of the husband, freeing me up for the perfect, smooth, grassy puree.
The rule of thumb is: eat so much of each thing when its around, that by the time it's not around, you don't even miss it. If the strawberries are sitting untouched for more than twelve hours, stop buying them. It's over. If those garlic scapes are reproaching you from the fridge nearly a week later, go back to buying cloves.
Eating locally and seasonally can never succeed if its based on what you can't have. But it can if it's based on a wildly decadent hedonism: this year, we ate a quart of strawberries. Each. In one sitting.
We also pounded them into strawberry mint juleps that were too perfect for words, and drowned them in vodka for weeks at a time, resulting in a ruby-red elixir that's as sweet and summery as it is potent. We also packed our freezer with them, waiting patiently for the free day to make jam, and I cooked down the few, pouty, sad ones into a simple sauce, perfect with pancakes.
I pound cherries like I'm going for some sort of world record, and I freeze blueberries like this is the last year we'll ever see them. We eat asparagus daily for weeks while we can, and I sneak into the kitchen at all hours of the day or night for a few slices of cucumber, or nibbled sugar snap peas. My wooden spoons are stained pink from rhubarb concoctions.
In another month tomatoes will have stained our cutting board, and bell peppers, roasted and raw, will flavor everything. I'll serve nothing but raw sweet corn cut from the cob and tossed with halved cherry tomatoes for dinner, and we'll eat in silence, too busy feeling each kernel burst in our teeth to talk.
I guess my lifestyle sounds high maintenance: food shopping three or four times a week, meal planning, cooking, preserving...but to me, to give it up would mean a way bigger loss in quality of life than I would gain in time, to say nothing of of the loss of living out of integrity with my principles.
If you've never been to a Farmer's Market, now's the time to go! And if you stop by every now and then for one or two things, now's the time to challenge yourself to see if you can let the grocery supplement the market, instead of the other way around.
Let me know how it goes! I'll save a cocktail for you. ;-)