Saturday, June 04, 2011

An ode to my adopted state...

(chives, growing on my back porch, I got my first harvest off of these puppies back in March!)

I overheard a conversation at the farmer's market this morning that badly made me want to intervene, although I ultimately decided that walking away was better than butting in with an "Actually, I know more than you" attitude. However, I've been thinking about it off and on for the last couple of hours and I've decided that this is an appropriate forum for rebuttal.

The farmer's market in question was one of the few local markets that allows wholesalers to sell their wares, meaning that you can buy a peach there in May. I don't disapprove really, I'm happy to see small companies with an outlet that allows them to compete with the huge chains, and I'm pleased to see people supporting them. If you can't buy local, then at least buy from a local, right?

The conversation I overheard was between two market shoppers and went something like this:

"You didn't get that peach here did you?"
"Oh yes, but I'm sure it was grown in California or someplace."
"Oh! Because I was going to say! That's amazing."
"No, no, of course not. We live in Michigan. Nothing grows here! You hear about these 'localavores' but they're living in central California and places like that!" (I have to confess, the "know-it-all" tone is probably what was getting to me) "I mean, you can eat local in Michigan if you want to, but you'd be eating lettuce and radishes!"
"Ha, ha, yes I guess so."
"I came out to the market last week looking for strawberries, and there wasn't a single one to be found! I think they must be very late this summer, I'm sure there were strawberries here last year."

We were at a very crowded market, the third or fourth week that they had been open, on the tail end of a cold and lingering spring...and it's true, there weren't too many local veggies to be seen. (I also overheard another woman complaining that there was no "fruit" available) The local eats were there though, tucked behind flats of garden starts, and bouquets of hot house flowers. There were hot house tomatoes and peppers. There were hoop house strawberries. There was asparagus, rhubarb, cucumbers, zucchinis, seed potatoes (that were for planting, but looked way more edible than the ones I bought at the "real" store last week), lettuce, spinach, green onions, and more herbs than you can shake a stick at. There was also every type of meat you could wish for including fish and shrimp (yes! local shrimp, in Michigan!) and lots of prepared pastries, and breads etc.
(My back porch lettuce, and a Michigan grown pineapple...which has barely stayed alive for the last two years, but god-damn it, it's a pineapple and I'm proud of it)

Rather than butting into a private conversation I thought I would just mention it here:

ACTUALLY! Michigan has the third largest crop diversity in the country. Just about the only thing you can't grow in Michigan is Bananas, although I'm sure someone is working on it.

Which is not to say that I don't eat my share of out of season produce. I have Washington apples and California grapes in my kitchen right now. I buy bananas like they are going out of style, because my picky kids will eat them. I have some overly firm, underly tasty supermarket strawberries sitting on my counter right now, because The Destroyer practically jumped out of the shopping cart begging for them, but you can bet that in a couple of weeks when they are actually in season, that I will be buying them by the flat load, eating them by the handful and turning them into jam and ice cream.

It just broke my heart to hear my adoptive state maligned as a place where "nothing" grew. I couldn't let it, lady, wherever you are, I hope that when Michigan peaches are in season later this year that you can get your hands on a couple. You'll probably fall for the California peach scam again next year, when you haven't seen a peach in months and they're sitting there looking all perky and miraculously unbruised in the grocery store, but at least you'll know what you're missing.

(some pretty flower I bought to liven up the container garden...pretty huh? Some Michigan farmer grew it for me)

Ragnar...mama first, then pirate, and then adoptive Michigander.

PS: Stay tuned for more "scratch that" from scratch vs. store bought posts in the near future. Next up: Mayonnaise.