The question is always the same when Midwestern local eating comes up in conversation with those not from around here: “But what about the winter?”
Yes, I miss the ease of summer vegetables during the winter months. But lots of things store well, and, more often than not, the bounty of late fall carries over well into the winter months. Combine cellared crops with jars of preserves and you might even have too much food. Just ask Jess Piskor and his wife, Michelle, about their February adventure to eat only what was in the house to help reduce the stockpiles. They will be at Saturday's farmer's market inside The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
I find early spring the most difficult time to eat locally, despite winter's struggles. Two days ago it was 65 degrees outside, and I got a bit of sunburn for the first time.
I wanted to spend the afternoon eating asparagus, peas, morels and, oh, all the world for some rhubarb. I’ll allow myself to indulge in coconut milk and avocados all winter long, but I just can’t bring myself to cheat on Michigan asparagus. So I return to beets, carrots, potatoes and jars of pickles and jam and wait.
It’s during this food gap — waiting for the favorites — that I feel most thankful for apples. Not to mention thankful to our neighbor, Gene Garthe, for growing so many varieties of organic apples and sharing them with us.
Gene’s crews start picking in September and continue almost to the holidays. We pack away as many crates as we can find and keep them in the cool and the dark. Sorting through them periodically is a good idea because it really is true that one bad apple will spoil the bunch.