Don't you hate it when you go to the market and you really want an Ujukitsu, but all they have are strawberries? How do you know which fruit and vegetables are in season, and if they're local?
A stroll through the markets this past weekend revealed a treasure trove of seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. There were bushels of kale, chard, spring onions, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, squash, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, spinach and herbs galore. The fruit choices were low -- it was pretty limited to strawberries, although raspberries, blackberries and kumquats are in season in Texas.
I hope to see more fruit at the markets in the coming weeks. In May, you will start to see the beginning of the melon season in Texas. Cantaloupes, honeydews and the first watermelons will start trickling into the markets. Red and yellow plums and muscadine grapes also make their early debut. May vegetables will be the new and sweet potatoes and bell peppers. And wait for it -- right around the corner is peach season! Every Texan's birthright is to have a Texas peach right off the tree, still warm from the sun. Fruit doesn't get any better.
Still looking for your Ujukitsu? Since it is not native to Texas, you will be hard-pressed to find it at a farmers market. Your best bet is to hit Central Market or Whole Foods, as it is a sweet lemon native to Japan. We can grow them in Texas but don't on any grand scale. Lots of fruits and vegetables are available year round, care of refrigerated trucks and large chain grocers. Oranges from California, grapes from Chile, avocados from Mexico, pineapples from Costa Rica -- whatever your pleasure, it's in season somewhere, or force-grown in a hothouse.
Today, we have to decide whether to give in to the temptation of convenience and grab the Chilean grapes or eat like our grandparents and choose what is native to our state and available locally. There are arguments for both sides, and I have been a participant of both. Everyone knows that a fruit or vegetable eaten in its season is superior to an out-of-season forced-growth fruit or vegetable. That, I think we all can agree upon. Where the line seems to start forking is this: If Florida grows a better navel orange than Texas, then why shouldn't I enjoy that orange? If California can grow great yuzu, then why should I go without in Texas? If New Mexico grows a great green chile, why shouldn't I opt for the superior variety? You see where this is going.....
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I do not purport to advocate one choice over the other. That is a decision you have to make for yourself and your family. I do support being educated about where your food comes from, how people are treated in the growing/harvesting of it, and how the land is taken care of from crop to crop. Beyond that, you have to decide if you can pass up the Costa Rican pineapples for the Alvin strawberries.
There are a few sites that will help you keep track of the fruits and vegetables in Texas and their season. You can search them by food or month. Urban Harvest also lists what is in season at their markets in their e-newsletter. I say, grow what you can, support your local farmers market and get educated about what you are eating and when you're eating it.