Food and Farming 101

Plants need water, earth and sun to grow. They have a life cycle. Early spring is typically when it gets warm enough to plant things and have them start growing. If you live in a warmer climate where it’s sunny year-round, then you will have more frequent access to fresh produce. This is why lots of the produce you see in the store comes from places like southern California, Texas and Mexico where they can grow a steadier crop supply. And everything is flipped in the Southern Hemisphere, so you can get nice produce during their summer while it’s winter here. This cycle ends with harvest time and an abundance of great food, as we reap the rewards of the growing season before it gets cold again.

Of course, not all plants are created equal. Some grow faster. Some need more light. Some need more moisture. All of these elements are in relationship to each other. Lots of rain early on, and then lots of sun afterwards can yield excellent crops. Too much rain or sun at the wrong time can destroy crops or hinder their growth. And this is the life of a farmer. They are constantly at the mercy of the weather to grow their livelihood. If their customers want to rely on them for great tomatoes every year, then let’s hope the elements are right year after year to consistently produce great tomatoes. But they are not always right or consistent. That’s when you get into food politics, food systems, and food economics. If I make my own pizza sauce and I can’t get my normal supply of local, fresh tomatoes, then I may be forced to go elsewhere. Is there another crop of tomatoes that’s nearby? Do I need to import from Mexico? What about my competitor? He is probably in the same dilemma and vying for the same tomatoes. Higher demand then creates higher prices. And what about the agricultural and commercial sanctions regulating the flow of tomatoes into the United States and out of Mexico? Now global politics are a factor!

It’s funny I sat down to write an article about asparagus and this is where I ended up. My point was going to be that you should eat fresh produce seasonally. There is a reason why asparagus is abundant in the spring. That’s when it matures and is ready to be eaten. And you will taste the difference. Asparagus from the earth 15 miles outside of the city tastes superb. Asparagus harvested in Peru and flown to you in November simply will not taste as good. It’s convenient to have asparagus year-round, but it’s best to eat according to the seasons. And it’ll help you make good, tasty decisions. Do you buy tomatoes in February? Only if you want gross, flavorless rocks with thick skins!

This also means don’t take fresh produce for granted. Eat as much asparagus as possible, because it’ll be another year before it’ll taste this good again. You can even get clever with canning and freezing to prolong the love of asparagus. But out of the ground is best!

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