I’ll be talking more about seasonality in a later MoFo post – assuming I’m still clinging on to this relentless posting train by the 22nd – but let me give you a brief intro.
Basically, I’m not very clued in to what’s seasonal and what’s not. Sure, I know one can’t expect juicy sweet strawberries in December, and that there’s a reason Brussels sprouts don’t tend to feature in summer salads. But somewhere between the fact that you can find almost all of these things side-by-side at reasonable prices in most supermarkets year-round, and the fact that the weather doesn’t always keep up with the seasons, I have lost touch a little with the concept of seasonality.
Thankfully, a few years ago I discovered Eat the Seasons, and that immediately became my go-to for all questions seasonal when I don’t trust my combination of gut instinct and memory of what I got bored of at what time of year.
Um… did anyone else writing their MoFo post wonder what exactly qualified as late summer? (or is nobody else that pedantic?) I have always counted seasons to start and end around the 20th or 21st of the appropriate month, whereas I believe a lot of people consider the start of a new season to coincide with the first of the month. And apparently Ireland have decided that their summer (and, presumably, the rest of the seasons) starts and ends a whole month earlier than anyone else’s… so there’s that.
Anyway. To me, it is summer until sometime around September 21st. If we divide each season into Early, Mid(dle), and Late, then we get three convenient month-long chunks of time within per season – which would make Late Summer run from August 21st til September 21st. Let’s call it September. Which is conveniently the month of MoFo!
So I now have the fun task of picking my favourites from this list!
… How is this so hard?!
The fruit is easy. Ish. If we ignore the imported produce because surely that’s just cheating, I do eat an apple pretty much every day, year-round (sorry), and have done ever since I can remember. I struggle to go a day without an apple, whereas I can easily wait for the right season for the others. And I am genuinely relieved by late summer when I can feel less ethically conflicted about buying apples.
Raspberries I’m a little indifferent to; as pretty as they are, they often lack the sweetness I would normally expect, though I suspect that is less the fruit’s fault and more the food supply chain’s fault. Moreover, I do prefer the depth of blackberries, their meatier texture, and the memories of picking them with the family along the side of a road at the end of the summer.
I also remember an abundance of redcurrants in late summer, courtesy of my granddad’s allotment. They were a nightmare to dish up as you had to pick each tiny fragile berry from its equally delicate stem! We would eat them in glass bowls covered in sugar… I understand why you would eat them if you grew them in your garden, as they seem fairly low-maintenance and they are very pretty, but does anybody actually go out of their way to buy them?
I don’t even know what elderberries or bilberries look like, and damsons never featured in my repertoire. Plums, though – plums I could get excited about. For one, it’s one of the few seasons I know exists, so I can nod approvingly at the decreasing price and rock-hardness of the punnets of plums that usually stare at me bleakly year round from the supermarket shelf. For another, a good plum can be so juicy and sweet, and a good plum always has its own distinctive plummy taste that reminds me of unexpectedly warm September days. So, by process of elimination: I declare plums my favourite late summer fruit! (though it’s totally figs, of course)
Vegetables are a little harder because while I love pretty much all vegetables, and some of my all-time favourites feature on the list, I don’t get as excited about vegetables as I do about fruits. For one, even vegetables out of season tend to be cheaper and more readily available than some seasonal fruits. For another, the flavour of vegetables tends to vary less dramatically between in-season and out-of-season, presumably due to lower expected sugar content. So I await aubergine season with less than bated breath.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I have an aubergine problem. I have also given myself broccoli problems in the past from eating too much broccoli… I literally have to exercise restraint around the stuff, or I give myself stomach aches. Aubergine is a pizza topping staple, and I never pass up the chance to order an aubergine curry in a curry house. And a stir-fry without broccoli is a wasted opportunity.
… There is a “desert island” prompt in a few days and I’m thinking maybe aubergine or broccoli should get picked?
Like apples, carrots are daily staples. Cucumber, lettuce and celery, and garlic and tomatoes all feature pretty heavily in our weekly meals and snacks. Beetroot, butternut squash, and pumpkin (my personal favourite) are so damn delicious – roasting is the only way – but they don’t make me scream “Yay! It’s September! Let’s eat beetroot!”. Sorry, beetroot.
I find all the other vegetables – from fennel and kale to kohlrabi and turnip – delicious but being the only one who would go out of my way to eat them, and with limited fridge space, I tend not to buy them. Green beans were another allotment vegetable that are anchored so solidly in my food memory that they got left behind in the past.
But one item on that list stands out as being truly special and indicative of the return to school and draped scarves and richer, herbier dinners after sunset. It is so special, in fact, that I never treat myself to it. One of the few items that only comes around at a specific time and can cost multiple times the cost of its everyday, year-round counterpart.
I am talking, of course, about wild mushrooms. Uniquely shaped and textured and flavoured, there is simply nothing else that compares, nothing else that truly tastes of September. Thankfully, I absolutely adore mushrooms, and the weird and wilder and more untamed the better. Outta the way, kale, I hail the Late Summer Mushroom!
Please, if there’s anyone else out there who gets excited about mushrooms… let me know I’m not alone!