I’ve gotten spoiled with my CSA share in the summers: I hardly ever go to the grocery store. And when I do, it’s mostly to get staples like sugar and flour…and the occasional can of black beans (if I’m too lazy to soak and cook dry beans) or mushrooms (which I do not grow….yet.). By the time January rolls around and I haven’t gotten my weekly allotment of salad greens for a couple of months, I start to have major cravings. So yesterday I broke down and went to the grocery store to buy salad greens. And apples. And pears. And several other things. It was the first time I’d had a major grocery outing in several weeks and it hurt. Not in the pocketbook, but just from the fact that I had to buy grocery store apples! Oh, the agony (Cue dramatic ‘damsel in distress music’ now)! Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I don’t feel too bad about buying apples and pears. At least the apples and pears are fall-winter ripening fruits that have a long storage time, thus they are sort of ‘in season.’ And the apples came from Washington, so at least they were a regional item. And the greens? Well, I could be growing them in my basement right now, but I’ve had a lot going on so it hasn’t made it to the top of my priority list yet.
I know it may seem extreme to not just go to the grocery store and buy some damn salad. Especially in the wintertime when there is no salad growing in Montana, unless it happens to be in a greenhouse or in my basement under lights. But it’s hard for me now that I’ve seen and tasted what local eating is like. I’ve really gotten…militaristic? some might say snobbish? about eating as much locally-produced food as possible. I guess I try to hold my food sources to high standards now that I have labeled myself a locavore, though I do have plenty of grocery store staples that are not local: cereal, crackers, chocolate chips, canned pineapple, the list continues (and it does include things that do not start with the letter C). So I suppose I risk sounding like a hypocrite if I will eat canned pineapple but I won’t eat store bought salad? Maybe it’s because I know I can’t buy a Montana-grown pineapple (though I do have a pineapple plant in my living room that has never produced fruit in the 4 years I’ve had it–but I’ll keep waiting) that I justify buying the pineapple but not the salad? Hard to say. I guess all I can do is try to limit my non-local foods as much as possible and not judge myself too hard even if it means I break down once and a while and buy a salad in January.
Oh, the internal struggles of a locavore…
Having said that, there are plenty of items that I don’t buy fresh when out of season. As I walked through the produce section of the grocery store, I glanced at the dozens of plastic cartons of raspberries and thought to myself…”Why would anyone spend so much money on raspberries in the grocery store in January?” First of all, even in season, raspberries are such a delicate fruit that they just don’t travel well. By the time they make it to the display at the grocery store, they are on the verge of rotting, if they aren’t already. And secondly, they just don’t have the same appeal as raspberries you pick yourself in the summer. There is nothing quite like popping a warm, sun-kissed raspberry in your mouth that you just plucked from the vine. That is the unadulterated taste of summer. Not hot dogs. Raspberries. Of course, raspberries are thorny little buggers, so you often end up with a few scratches to show for your blood-red stained hands and lips. But it’s all worth it. And picking raspberries with friends? Even better. Let them crawl around on their hands and knees, hair getting caught in the brambles, arms getting scratched to hell. Of course, they get the best, hidden berries so it’s a trade off.
But I digress. We were talking about salads, weren’t we?
So I bought the greens and the apples and pears. I took them home and I made a giant salad. Even though I bought the organic, triple-rinsed greens, I just cannot in good conscience eat salad greens without washing them first. Unless I pluck it from my own garden and know for a fact that a bird has not pooped on it, I must wash it. I broke out the salad spinner that hasn’t seen activity for several months (Hello, old friend!), washed my greens, gave them a good spin, and plopped them in a bowl.
I chopped up a pear and added half of it to my salad. I pulled out some dried cranberries. I added some goat cheese crumbles. And I drizzled some honey-mustard dressing on top. But perhaps the best part of my salad was the sweet-spicy walnuts and sunflower seeds I added to the top.
I made them myself: maple syrup, cayenne pepper, olive oil, a dash of chili powder and salt–into the oven at 225 degrees F for about 25 minutes, stirring once. Yuuuuuuuum! They were spicy for sure! I used a LOT of cayenne pepper. But when added to the salad the heat was dampened a little by the salad dressing and goat cheese and they were the perfect addition to my salad. I like something a little crunchy-nutty in my salads and I’m often throwing a spoonful of raw sunflower seeds in my salads in the summer time, so these were a special little treat.
I inhaled that salad. And I felt so much better getting some raw greens in my body. I just needed them. It’s funny how I tire of salads sometimes in the summer because we get greens of some sort every. single. week. But then once they’re gone, it doesn’t take long before I pine for those crisp heads of lettuce or spicy bags of arugula we were getting inundated with weekly for 5 months. Fortunately, June 6th is only about 19 weeks away. Not that I’m counting…
That salad was so good that I ate it again for dinner tonight. Maybe I’ll even have it again tomorrow, this time with that regionally grown Washington apple.