Signs of autumn are everywhere in Seattle. I woke early last week to find that the tree in front of our house had dropped its leaves, seemingly overnight. The rose bush has traded its summery flowers for fat red rosehips, and trees all over are responding to the chilly temperatures and shorter days by breaking out their colorful fall finery. And, last but not least, we picked up our final CSA box, complete with massive amounts of winter squash which are busy curing in the basement. Winter squashes, with their hard shells, require time to sweeten--if you cook and eat them straight from the field, they can be bitter and tough. Leaving them in a cool dark place gives them time to become the tasty creatures we all know and love.
The changing season has not gone unremarked at our farmers' market. More craftspeople have started to set up stands as farmers sell the last of their summer bounty and pack up shop, their tomatoes and cucumbers nothing more than a fond memory. The produce stands that remain do a brisk trade in potatoes, leeks, broccoli, apples, root vegetables, and squash. Man of La Muncha and I have also found our weekly diet changing in response to the season.
On Wednesday, Man of La Muncha made an escarole soup topped with grated parmesan and boiled egg, while on Saturday we had steamed bratwurst and mashed potatoes. Man of La Muncha ingeniously baked the potatoes before scooping the meal out of the skin and mashing with butter; the result was a sweeter mash, with the sugars retained and concentrated by the roasting process rather than being boiled away. Later this week, we will have pumpkin soup with chanterelles, stir fry, and burgers with bacon--the amount of meat we are consuming has increased quite a bit just in the last month or so. I'm also looking forward to doing some baking. I made a pumpkin pie from our CSA box a couple of weeks ago, and am feeling the need to make bread.
We've frozen or otherwise preserved a fair bit of our summer bounty (if anyone needs pesto, call us!), but given that I'm already feeling nostalgic for that perfect summer tomato, we probably should have done more. I bought lettuce for the first time since June, and was saddened by the fact that it came from California, since all the local producers have harvested their lettuce for the year. This raises a bit of an Ethicurean dilemma--do we continue buying lettuce and getting our leafy greens, even if they come to us from the Central Valley? Or do we content ourselves with kale and other cruciferous local vegetables until next spring and the promise of chickweed? It's times like this that we miss living in the Bay Area!
However, no one ever said that working towards an Ethicurean ideal would be easy, and there should be no fresh tomatoes in November. While I'm not saying that I won't occasionally buy a monster head of California lettuce in the upcoming months, I'm going to focus on eating as seasonally and locally as possible. Which means more potatoes and also more broccoli, more meat and dairy, and more storage produce like onions, squash, and apples. And, alas, fewer of the green leafy vegetables that are available in such abundance during the warmer months.
When I next have a salad, whether it's made of chickweed or miner's lettuce, it will taste like spring.