The close of farmers markets in the fall always made me a little disappointed. The end of sweet corn and cherry-red tomatoes meant I was destined for months of bland food: tasteless iceberg lettuce, white potatoes and button mushrooms from the supermarket.
But the last few years, I've learned that eating a little more seasonally is not only possible, but I can do it and support the little guys down the road. Fresh from an attempt of a season with a CSA and an experiment with attending winter farmers markets, I'm slowly learning that you can enjoy good, local produce in Indiana at least three seasons of the year.
My first few attempts at visiting winter markets were a bit disappointing. Without the budget to buy grass-fed beef or fresh breads and a little worried about buying jars of pickled produce, I wasn't quite enthused about that time of year.
But this season in particular, I've been pleasantly surprised. The local markets, seeing interest from visitors and vendors alike, are extending their seasons until late October and into November. Our winter farmers market has seen such success that in its second year, it moved to a new location. And I was pleasantly surprised this weekend to be able to buy freshly picked broccoli and bok choy (which we've grown to love), shitake mushrooms (organic - and cheaper than at the grocery store!), hard-necked garlic, permisson (something new for all of us) and more. Box after box of apples, squashes and more provided clues of what would be available in weeks to come.
And this fall, encouraged by an online four-season gardening class I took, we dived in and planted a fall batch of argula, spinach, carrots, radishes, peas and garlic. Granted, growing is a little slow -- I confess that I forgot about it for a time! -- but it's a fun experiment nonetheless. My kids are thrilled to grab carrots out of our backyard, though they're not quite sure what to make of the dirt that comes with it (compared with the perfectly washed and sized baby carrots at the store). As our finances improve and my confidence grows, I'm looking forward to putting more of the information I gained to good use, hopefully being able to grow year-round in our little beds.
The thing is, when you buy something that's fresh - or even better, pick it from your backyard - it's much more enjoyable on the plate. Now, if I can only find that solution for that desolate period between New Year's and the first market openings in May!
This is my contribution for the November APLS carnival on Sustainable Living & You. You can read a wrap-up of these articles on Greening Families on Nov. 18.