What’s In Season Now Belongs to the Resourceful
Is it What’s Growing or What’s Left
When you hear, “what’s in season now”, it tends to drive images of pale pink cherry blossoms, stalks of asparagus just reaching the market, the ripening of the first tomatoes. We might often think of what’s in season now as a cycle of sprouting, growing, being ready to eat. What determines when we can eat something, when it is in season depends on three factors. First, how long does it take for a plant to produce it’s edible part. For instance, radishes can be ready to eat within three or so weeks of planting. Second, when does the part that we eat appear. A lot of plants we need to eat in their earliest stages of growth. If a plant flowers or “bolts”, it is usually no longer edible. More, some plants, like edible ferns, may only be palatable or safe to eat early in their cycle. Finally, we need to wait for items to grow, sweeten, set-up for succor. We’re not gonna pick a tomato or a strawberry when it first appears. All of these things may be true for making something in season about half the year in the Upper Midwest. The other half, what’s in season really means what you can find.
What’s in season now, in Chicagoland: celery root. Not because any farmer is harvesting this plant, also called celeriac, but because it’s a plant left in storage going into Spring CSA boxes. What’s also in season, chard, spinach, turnips and other crops being pulled from hoop-houses and high tunnels. To have any local food, in season, this time of year, means having a CSA subscription, getting to a few markets early or being lucky in your shopping–our sources tell us that Dill Pickle Coop had ramps this week. There’s that kind of resourcefulness, the kind of person who works to eat local. In addition, this time of year, there’s a few others even more resourceful, who are getting out in the fields and forests to find the ramps, cress, sorrel, that really exemplify what you may think of seasonality.
Season Extension and Other Indoor Crops
Farmers have been planting in their hoop houses since late winter. There’s just enough heat and light to get cold hearty crops ready for harvesting now. We have seen in markets radishes, swiss chard, arugula, lettuces, spinach, turnips, bok choy, collard greens, and napa cabbage. There may also be cold hearty herbs like cilantro and lovage.
Another way to have local food, especially this time of year, is to find produce grown indoors using hyrdoponic or aquaponic methods. You can find lsome of the same crops grown in hoop-houses, like lettuces, basil, arugula, and herbs also grown these ways.
We know of root cellars still producing. There are also a few over-wintered crops around. In addition to the celery root mentioned above, we are hearing reports of carrots, sunchokes, potatoes, burdock root, parsnips, leeks, beets, and onions.
Do we report these things just for reference. Will you actually taste ramps, various cresses, garlic mustard, dandelion greens, fiddle-head ferns, sorrel, or morel mushrooms.
Will you be lucky enough to have what’s in season now?
WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS
You have a few options for finding local food this time of year. The best be, we believe, is to be a CSA subscriber. Many boxes are arriving now with Spring food. If you have not signed up, use our big list to find a CSA for you. There are a limited amount of farmer’s markets. See our weekly Local Calendar for markets around the Chicago area. You can order your local food. Our friends at Fresh Picks have a good inventory still of local food, or you can try one of these stores that specialize in local foods:
Artisanal Wilmette – 414 Linden Ave. Wilmette
Butcher and Larder 1026 North Milwaukee in Noble Square, Chicago
Dill Pickle Food Co-op – 3039 West Fullerton, Chicago
Edible Alchemy Foods Co-op - Located in the near-SW Pilsen neighborhood, the co-op has grown to five locations in, including Hyde Park, River North, Lakeview, and Logan Square
Marion Street Cheese Market 100 South Marion St. Oak Park
Provenance Food & Wine - 2 locations Logan Square 2528 N. California Lincoln Square 2312 W. Leland Ave.
Publican Quality Meats – 835 W. Fulton, Chicago
Sauce and Bread Kitchen - 6338-40 N. Clark, Chicago
Standard Market – 333 East Ogden Ave., Westmont