Friday, May 22, 2009

In the Season Thereof...

Rhubarb season is upon us! It doesn’t rate rave reviews any more, but rural folks used to look forward to the first harvest of the season: a tangy vegetable, loaded with Vitamin C, that’ll make you pucker if you eat it raw, but is delicious in pies and cobblers. I used to make a rhubarb custard pie that was out of this world, but that’s a subject for another blog.

I was thinking about rhubarb the other day and how, after a winter of eating only vegetables that could be stored in a root cellar: potatoes, carrots, cabbage , apples (though you couldn’t store the cabbage and apples together in the same place, because they would make each other go bad quickly), anyway, after a winter of bland veggies, the rhubarb must have been a singular delight to rural people of previous centuries. Spring tonic, they called it.

I often give thanks, as we ask the blessing on the food, that I live in a time with wonderful agricultural and transportation facilities so that the most common of us can eat food out of season throughout the year. Who’d a thunk it? No one in Sierra County, New Mexico, in the year I was born.

But, at the same time, something has been lost—that once-a-year specialness that attended the ripening of each crop, beginning with rhubarb. Each succeeding surprise, from strawberries to raspberries to cherries to blueberries and blackberries to apples, each advent was anticipated and relished and remembered long after the plants had withered with the frosty winds of fall.

There are a few things that remain as once-a-year blessings. Like Pacific Northwest strawberries. You won’t find them shipped fresh across the country, because they don’t last. Dark red and sweet, they’re unsubstantial as the river mist, and if not eaten soon after picking, they melt away. The season begins about mid June and is almost over on July 4th. I can hardly wait.

Another once-a-year delight is sweet corn. Oh, you can buy corn in the market right now. It’s corn season somewhere in the world. But there’s nothing as good as just-picked corn. The minute the ear is pulled from the stalk, the sweetness starts to disappear, so the quicker you can get it husked and cooked, the better it will taste. That’s why good corn is a once-a-year, straight-from-your (or neighbor’s)-garden affair.

And then there are lilacs. Is there fragrance that can compare with theirs? That’s a once-a-year treat that I look forward to. Again, it’s a short season but filled with the double sensory delight of scent and sight.

The picture is of my four-year-old lilac bush that must have heard me threatening to pull it out and run it through the chipper if it didn't start blooming pretty soon. It managed to squeeze out four blooms, so I let it live.

Last on my current list of once-a-year treats is my neighbor’s flowering cherry tree. Two weeks, max, I get to enjoy the rosy splendor of that tree before the petals fall and blow across the street to edge my lawn in pink drifts. It’s already over, and I’m glad I have the picture to augment the memory.

So, what about you. What, besides Christmas, do you wait all year for?

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Chas Hathaway said...

Mmmm. I love rhubarb! We had some in my garden growing up, and I loved just plucking off a limb and eating it.

But pie! Wow, yum!

I wait all year for seed season, which is upon us! It seems that anything I plant at this time of year will grow - though it may be hard to keep it alive later. Somehow those seeds know the season, and if I plan it right, and carefully, I can get almost anything to grow.
I've even found that at this time of year, seeds in store bought apples are often sprouting while in the apple! I have three apple trees in my yard from Walmart apples. Silly, I know, but check your apples. Seed season is upon us!

- Chas

Primarymary said...

We used to grow rhubarb in our garden in Massachusetts. We had strawberry- rhubarb pie, rhubarb sauce on ice cream and lots of other good things.

One year my Aunt's stepmother made rhubarb pie for a family picnic, she boiled it smooth and added 4 cups of sugar so it woldn't be tart. Some people just don't know the joy of good tart rhubarb pie.

Since I've lived in AZ the only thing I really wait for is rainy days and cool weather. We have fresh fruits and vegies all year.

Monique said...

I want the Rhubarb custard pie recipe! I want the Rhubarb custard pie recipe! Having said that, one of my favorite season is chili roasting season in New Mexico. It was always the sign that summer was coming to an end and cooler days would soon be upon us. Every grocery store in town would be roasting bushels. The smells would fill the air for about two or three weeks depending on how successful the season down in Hatch was. I'll miss that this year.

Liz Adair said...

I love Chas's comment, "Those seeds know the season."

And...I wonder if I can remember that rhubarb custard pie recipe. I'll have to see what I can do.

Thanks for your comments!

Sandra said...

Our rhubarb is up too! I have an "old fashioned" from the Buffalo Ranch on the other side of town, a plant specimen well over 50 yrs has the red stalks that mark it the "Strawbarb" of its species. The other 3 are nursery plants, and are meh compared to my Old Girl.
Rhubarb custard Pie...must google that in Epicurious- YUMM!

Sweet Corn, you won't find better than here-but it's got so expensive- .99/3 ears. When I was growing up in CA, we use to get it at the Farmers Market in Roseville at the train-yard, 10/$1. Those were the days...

Come to WI if you want the next best thing.:)

HALLOWEEN, that's what DH and I live for-in fact, we were married on Oct. 31, 2001. Nothing fancy, no costumes-we were almost late to our own wedding, so didn't have time to fuss for a show at the Courthouse. We were lucky to get to the wedding on time LOL!

Nice to meetcha, Liz! Can't wait to get into your novels!
Sandra, in Friggncold, WI

PS: I'm blogging about your books now, will get you added visibility!

qndrgnsdd said...

My seasons run toward the carnivorous side of life, having lived mush of my youth in the "bush" hunting season. the salmon seasons. sockeye first, then silvers then dogs then kings, or every other year humpies. Spring begins when the swans leave and summer starts when the first salmon berries are ripe.