Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Everything You Read About Seasonality is Wrong

Epicurious's Seasonal Ingredient Map

I'm sure Gemma at Gaper's Block had the best of intentions when she directed her readers to this Epicurious guide to what's in season. And not every guide to seasonality is wrong. I mean I think this one has it pretty close. I have not, however, seen the mainstream food press ever get it right. The people who put together these guides typically get two things wrong. First, they assume stuff is in season around here well before it is. Second, they miss things that are in season when they are in season. Epicurious and about every other such guide does not guide the Chicago area locavore very well.

The Epicurious guide has the following in season in Illinois NOW, May: cherries, peas, cucumbers (!) and potatoes. Of these the only ones you'll find in Chicago area markets now are potatoes, and those potatoes you might see are last year's potatoes, still viable from good storage. Of course, for Wisconsin, the guide states for May:
The growing season is currently dormant here;
opt for items from storage, such as apples, pears, and root vegetables.
Funny when I was in Madison a few weeks ago things hardly seemed dormant (and not a pear in site).

Our guardians of foodie discourse do not pay attention to the neat things popping up on our lands in the Spring such as nettles, morels, ramps, watercress, sunchokes and scallions. Likewise, they forget that farmer's can grab their over-wintered crops for us such as parsnips, spinach and carrots. Most glaring, they have no idea that farmer's around here use just a wee bit of technology to goad Mother Earth into all sorts of crops such as Farmer Vicki's baby bok choy (gosh that was good), beets and kale. They make you look for what's not here and fail to see what is there.

The other problem, obviously, is that Illinois is a long and varied state and the climate in Little Egypt hardly matches what is here in Chicago. For all I know, farmer's markets in Cairo are awash in peaches right now. Still, a map such as presented by Epicurious should be representative of the entire state, certainly where most of the people are. Most of the people shopping farmer's markets right now, in this state will not find a cherry, not a local cherry.


valereee said...

I hear you! I saw it, too, and while what they're listing now for Ohio is correct, it's hardly complete.

mmorowitz said...

I was also shocked to see scallions weren't on their list. The variety of spring onions at the market has been great. I've also been really enjoying the bounty of green garlic.

They did at least have my favorite element of spring: rhubarb. This season's crop has been delicious.