This is Not Your Parent’s Spring Season

April 7, 2015 at 9:37 am

We are the Eat Local Generation


Raise your hands if you mom served ramps growing up? I suppose there’s a Local Beet reader or two who grew up in Appalachia, with memories of poke salad lunch and ramp-y dinners. For all that clamor about rampant ramps being the stinky onion of our city’s name, do we have any history of this item. We proclaim their harbinger-ness now and rush out looking for people who have been out looking for them. Now. Ramp-mania is a very recent phenomenon. I still look back at this epic MikeG review of Trio for his marveling at being served ramps (“yup, itÂ’s hillbilly food at $20/plate”). Who knew from ramps. Spring time was of asparagus, peas and jars of mint jelly.

We grew up when we needed to eat what could be supplied at the local grocery. Ample crops of asparagus came rolling in from points south this time of year to meet our seasonal needs. Demand for asparagus, artichokes, even something as exotic and known around here as historically as ramps, fava beans, festered from the dominant role Italian or “Mediterranean” food played in modern culinaria. This genre dominants cookbook shelves in bookstores, and never abates as fodder for new restaurants. If that was not enough, this form of eating was also fully endorsed by the American Medical Association. This supremacy created the impression we should eat this way. Loading up your grocery cart with asparagus, artichokes and the like is how we are supposed to eat Spring time.

Except it is not. At the Evanston Farmer’s Market the other day, there was plenty of produce, but there was nary an asparagus spear, a pea pod, or God help us, an artichoke. Around here, asparagus will come into season in the next month or so; peas a few weeks after that, and you know what, try a little bit of patience, maybe you will find local artichokes. We have a new Spring. It’s not the Spring you knew. It’s not the Spring you’ve read about, and especially, it’s not the Spring you see too often on area “seasonal” menus. We are in the age of the eat local Spring.

Here’s the thing, in recent years, locavores suffered in both directions. Asparagus and pea sprinkled menus taunted us one way, and then on the other, the real spring, the ramps and morels passed us right by. Just a few years ago, I was griping about the inability to eat Spring foods. I may be optimistic here, but I believe that’s changed. We can have our Spring and eat it too.

Next: Finding Spring for you plate.