Brookline could hardly be considered a food desert, but my diet has been terrible ever since Enterprise’s East Coast farmshare ended in early May. Without that weekly box of produce to tackle, I have found it increasingly difficult keep up with eating “real” foods. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a few nights of macaroni and cheese....or Chinese takeout...or soup from a box...but a few weeks worth of nights like that is another story.
Yes, a five-minute drive to Whole Foods (or a slightly longer trek to Russo’s, but I am nothing if not exceedingly lazy) would put me within reach of nearly every vegetable I could want. And, given my usual desire to plan out everything, you’d think that I would appreciate having complete control over our produce selection for a few weeks. But after a year and a half of the forced creativity that goes with picking up a CSA box, my attitude toward meal planning has shifted radically.
Rather than embracing the temporary freedom to eat anything and everything, I am paralyzed with indecision about what to buy. What’s freshest? What is the proper balance between local and sustainable and organic? Is it better to buy these blueberries from California or those mangoes from Puerto Rico...or that bag of apples that have probably been in storage since Thanksgiving? What’s even in season, insofar as anything (besides fiddleheads) is “in season” around here in early May? I used to make these choices on my own, I’m certain of it. I am less certain, however, that I cared so deeply about them.
You can imagine my relief, then, when the Brookline farmers’ market opened for the season yesterday. Yes, there are decisions involved in market shopping. But the environment just feels right. If nothing else, I know that the produce on the tables is fresh and local. Better still, on Sunday we will pick up our first Stillman’s CSA share of the season—and I will once again structure our menus around whatever food has been selected for us. We’re armed with various recipes for beets, and I’m actually looking forward to carrying home a half-dozen bunches of greens this weekend.
The main components of the spring harvest correspond to the body’s natural desire for lighter foods at this time of year (my son’s desire to eat apples year-round notwithstanding). So what are we eating, now that I can once again rely on the farmers to make my choices for me?
Greens, greens, and more greens. Remarkably fresh lettuce. Several varieties of beets—both the roots and the leaves. Asparagus, if I’m lucky. Turnips. Garlic scapes. Radishes. Snap peas and shell peas, neither of which have much hope of making it into our refrigerator before the kids gobble them up. And, of course: strawberries.
Only a few short weeks remain to luxuriate in the delicious wonder that is a strawberry only hours off the plant. Not everyone can spend a morning on a farm picking your own strawberries—I haven’t managed to pull it off yet either. But a warm Thursday evening with a book and a quart of plump, red berries from that day’s market is certainly an adequate substitute.