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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The things I never knew I never knew

When you start looking into eating better, or losing weight, or taking care of the environment, you start to learn that they are all interconnected. There are tons of key words that crop up again and again (organic, local, seasonal, carbon footprint, natural, non-gmo, no preservatives, free trade, free-range, grass fed, whole foods, etc.).  As far as I can tell, all those words and all the different ways they are used boil down to just one thing:

Eat foods that were grown near you, eat them whole, and fresh, cook them yourself, and eat them in season. 

Here is the trick, though. I had no idea what the seasons were for different fruits and veggies! Of course, I can figure out that I went strawberry picking with my kids in the spring, so they must be a spring fruit. And pumpkins and squash are clearly fall veggies. But when do radishes ripen? Or turnips? Or grapes? At my local grocery store, grapes are available every time I am there, year round. Usually I would assume that the prices are cheaper when the fruit is abundant and the growers have to unload it before it rots. Following that logic, grapes should be cheap in July and August, when the grapes are all ripening. This week, though, grapes are on sale for 88 cents per pound. It's March. They should cost an arm and a leg, shouldn't they?  

Now we get into all kinds of topics like the fact that it is grape season in South America, and the grapes for sale at the Ralph's down the street probably came from Argentina, and why I shouldn't buy them because they traveled thousands of miles and are full of pesticides and what about all the fuel used to bring them to me and blah blah blah.  And that is why I should be eating in season.

But how am I supposed to know what is in season? The cheap grapes tricked me!

So, now I get a box of produce that was grown near me, on organic farms, picked when it was ripe and delivered immediately. That takes care of all of the above. Yay me! I don't have to worry about each individual item!

And as it turns out, the people writing recipes? They're magic! They know what is in season! I am finding recipes that help me get rid of  call for produce that is all coming ripe at the same time!

As I was paging through a cookbook a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for turnips and parsnips. Hey! I have turnips and parsnips! And no idea what to do with either one of them! This sounds great! As I read the recipe, I saw that it also called for lemon juice and dill. I just so happened to get a few lemons and a bunch of fresh dill in my box that week! How did they know???

Unfortunately, this particular story doesn't have a happy ending. I made the recipe, following the directions to a T. And boy did I live to regret it.

It was.... gross. That is the only word for it. A big mess of yucky, lemony, parsnipy, turnipy yuckiness. I don't know how I thought I was going to take a vegetable that I am already overly tired of (parsnips), add to it a vegetable that, as far as I can tell, has no taste at all (turnips), add magical lemon and dill fairy dust, and get something palatable. I was wrong.

I ate three bites and declared, "I can't eat this any more." My kids? Hahahaha. Not a chance they were going to put that anywhere near their mouths. And for once, I didn't try to make them.