Where I grew up in the North-Eastern US, winters were brutal. Once a blizzard dumped upwards of three feet of snow in one day – so much snow that we couldn’t let my younger sister outside for fear of loosing her tiny, toddler body in one of the massive drifts forever. Shoveling the stuff is a full body workout and trying to drive in it is risky business. Still, I don’t mind snow, or the winter for that matter, and have taken a childlike delight in the few times I’ve seen it fall across the UK. Some of my family members don’t feel the same way, and each winter, threaten to decamp for a warmer climate where they’d never have to see another snowflake or freezing temperature again.
It’s odd, isn’t it, that few complain like this about the summer? It can certainly be too hot, but a visit to the seaside, a fan or a refreshing drink can cure that complaint. Do people ever complain that it’s too sunny or that the sky is too clear and cloud-free? The UK has long been spared the seasonal extremes many other locations experience, but perhaps as climate evolves, there will be those who loathe the summer just as they dread the winter.
This reminds me of the Pixar film Inside Out. Brief synopsis: a young girl moves to a new city and the emotions in her head, particularly Joy, struggle to cope with her new surroundings. Joy believes it’s her responsibility to make the girl happy all the time. If Sadness takes the controls, Joy has failed. 102 minutes and an animated, existential journey later, Joy realizes that all the emotions working together make her a better Joy. Sadness compliments Joy. Without each other, the girl would not understand the full range of human emotion, or the highs and lows of life. Joy needs Sadness. Summer needs Winter. You can’t appreciate one without the other.
Which brings me to vegetables. Summer brings us gorgeous, deep, leafy greens, courgettes for days, berries and broccoli, variety like no other time. We love the bounty of summer precisely because we have come through the dearth of the winter and hungry gap of the spring. We also live in a time where seasonality is on the fringes of the food system. Commercial growing and refrigerated cargo means that you can have your strawberries in February and tomatoes in December. Yet, that model is like Joy trying to dominate over all the other emotions. The sweetness of your first June strawberry is that much sweeter because you waited to eat it when nature intended for it to be eaten. For some people, perhaps it is the opposite, and the zing of a November parsnip makes them thankful for all the summer leaves they endured to reach that moment. We cannot marvel at the kaleidoscope of autumn’s colours without living through the green fields of summer, just as we cannot appreciate spring’s first buds without winter’s barren branches. It all comes hand in hand.
This is also the true value of Local Greens. Our model means that our community supports farmers and a small-scale food system through all the seasonal joy and sadness. The May hungry gap allows us to appreciate August’s glut; a light summer salad foreshadows a hearty root stew in future months; runner beans painstakingly harvested by hand yield to a cabbage that can tolerate frost. The cost of getting a crop from the field to your bag is constantly changing throughout the year, yet the value our customers provide to this system only grows. Our customers are investing in the longevity of UK farming, biodiversity, fair wages and ultimately themselves, as seasonal, organic eating improves health and community. There are moments when there may be a vegetable you don’t know, or possibly don’t like, and there are plenty of recipes and tips out there to overcome this challenge. Local Greens is not the supermarket for good reason. We believe in doing things differently and there is a value beyond the odd blackened carrot or yellowing leaf of chard that sometimes slips through. We hope you’ve joined our community to support these values and help spread them.
If summer is your joy, welcome to the good times. It’s only just begun. If summer is your sadness, rest assured knowing that the calendar will soon shift back in your favour. Either way, there is value in both, and we can’t have one without the other.
Image from Inside Out Pixar/Disney © 2015