Yesterday, while taking a break between baking huge batches of zucchini bread and frying dozens of zucchini fritters, I was chatting with a friend when it dawned on me that while everyone else is thinking about and lamenting summer’s end and the start of the school year, I am looking forward to the end of zucchini season and eager to begin tomato and basil season. That, of course, will soon be followed by early apple season. Then it’s late apples and pear season. And before you know it, all those wonderful pumpkins and winter squash will be ripe and in season.
The seasons of food are how I measure time. Ask me the date and chances are good I’ll have to take a glance at the Betty Crocker calendar hanging on my fridge. But ask me what’s in season and the answer is there, not just on the tip of my tongue but on my counter or stove, in the oven, or awaiting a trip to the freezer.
For me, spring is really about fresh peas, early lettuce, baby spinach, rhubarb and strawberries. Summer is broken up into mini seasons, blueberry and raspberry time during which we live on fresh muffins and scones, berries with yogurt or cream, blueberry waffles and pancakes, raspberry and blackberry jam, with cobblers and pies wrapped and piled into one of the freezers. Bean season is mostly over now; quarts of green and wax beans are blanched and packaged and frozen for the long winter that soon will be upon us. Zucchini bread, casseroles and fritters have joined them. Soon, quarts of tomato sauce will fill the shelves, as will pints of pesto. Tray upon tray of eggplant parmigana will be prepared and frozen. Herbs will be hung to dry. Then, it’s on to apple sauce, apple crisp and apple pies.
Before you know it, it will be fall harvest and that last wonderful bounty to wash, prepare and put up before snow blankets the North Country. My mouth is watering just thinking of fragrant pumpkin butter and pear tarts. And who doesn’t love fresh pumpkin pie? Then, I’ll haul out the cast iron dutch ovens in honor of soup and stew season and fire up the wood furnace to cook over. Mmm… already I can smell the wonderfully rich braises and the freshly baked crusty bread that will accompany them. And on those long, chilly but cozy evenings ahead, I’ll trudge downstairs to the freezers or canning shelves and pull out a bit of sunshine from one of the many seasons of the recent past. Then, I’ll curl up with a blanket and a good book, possibly a beautiful new cook book, to read and dream of the seasons of food to come. Maple season is usually early here…