My mom is the matriarch of East Pine Street, having lived there the longer than any other of the residents. Many of her neighbors are young families similar to her when my parents moved there in 1968. When I showed up for a visit this week, I found her raking her gardens and cleaning up detritus from last fall and winter.
“It’s the season,” she said, pointing out that once she began her annual rites of spring many of her neighbors followed suit. Let your grass get too tall or weeds take over your landscaping, and she’ll notice. Fortunately, I live in the middle of a hay field so I need to let my grass get tall before it’s mowed. That’s called hay season.
While highly subjective according to the position of the sun, hormones, weather, planting and harvest, seasons signify change.
Last Sunday kicked of the regular season for Bethesda and NOVA Central Farm Markets. For vendors, that meant getting to market an hour earlier as the markets now open at 9:00 am. However, I needed to point out to several customers that the Saturday markets’ season won’t start until later—April 27th for Pike and May 4th for Westfield.
“That’s kind of dumb,” one customer remarked, and I had to have a conversation with them about seasonality. Many of the vendors at the seasonal markets are outdoor growers. While Mother Nature may be gifting us with warm weather, for farmers that means getting young plants started in a greenhouse into the ground so they can G R O W. Two weeks ago, it snowed where I farm. With a significant investment in time and money getting seeds started, farmers are careful about their outdoor plantings knowing well that cold weather can stunt or worse, kill their hard work setting back their season even further.
Recently, I had a customer at market casually ask when artichokes would be in season. I correctly pegged them as a transplant from southern California and then had to drop the bomb—there is no artichoke season here in the East. If they want artichokes, they’ll have to settle for the shriveled balls found at grocery stores which after all these years I still cannot bring myself to buy.
How do you know what is in season at the markets?
One way is to sign up for the Central Farm Markets’ weekly email. We’ve prominently featured What’s in Season at the Markets in the eblast highlighting what’s new, what’s plentiful and what to get before the season ends. Other ways to be in the know are to follow Central Farm Markets on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you’re not into social media, listen to the weekly radio show, Foodie and the Beast every Sunday at 11:00 am on Federal News Network’s 1500 AM to find out what’s fresh at the market.
By staying in touch, you’ll know when harbingers of the season arrive at the markets. Folks are already asking about asparagus and strawberries. Ramps and fiddleheads showed up for the first time last week.
Once the season for your favorites arrives, remember those goodies are going to disappear when the season is over. Some farmers are able to extend their seasons using greenhouses, but delicate seasonal produce such as fresh peas, green beans, summer squash, berries and fruits come and go.
The key to enjoying seasonal delights year round is to stock up during the season and learn to preserve. Pickled ramps are easy and make great additions to salads and martinis. Berries can be frozen on sheet pans and then stored in containers without ending up as one big frozen clump. I like to pop a few in a blender with yogurt for a delicious and nutritious smoothie! It’s worth it to learn to blanch, bag and freeze.
Stay tuned to Dishing the Dirt throughout the seasons to learn how to serve, cook and preserve what’s in season.