This was a tough year for our CSA farm. The rain and heat were relentless, making it impossible to successfully bring many crops to harvest. The usual piles of squashes, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, and leafy greens, that have filled vegetable drawers and freezer containers in past summers, did not appear. The pickling cucumbers gave up early, resulting in a smaller batch of pickles for the year. I only picked two shares of green beans, before they had to be mowed down, overwhelmed by weeds which thrived in the nasty weather. Even the winter squash harvest was smaller than usual, and won’t last beyond the beginning of winter. Only the stalwart kale was consistently available, so kale is what we ate, and as a result, there was no extra kale to freeze for winter soups. This is the first time in years that I don’t have a freezer full of summer vegetables waiting for me, to brighten the long winter’s nights to come.
Even so, we never went without vegetables for each week, and I have plenty of green bell peppers in the freezer to use in my snowstorm gumbo and jambalaya. I found lots of new ways to enjoy kale, and we had two really lovely batches of fresh salsa. As it became clear which vegetables were not going to be available, and dreams of shakshuka and ratatouille faded away, I found myself rethinking abundance and gratitude, and how the scarcity of something I’ve always relied on made it more dear.
My new interest in my family’s genealogy has always got me thinking about those who came before me. I have new perspective on how my ancestors might have gone through lean years, and made do with what was available to them, while always hoping for a better year to come. My writing about seasonal food has always been based on the assumption of bounty, and this season of scarcity has changed that, made me think.
In that scarcity, I have discovered a new appreciation for times of abundance. A new well of hope has been tapped in me, and I look forward to next year as a new season, a new chance to completely enjoy every single bite of each vegetable that I bring into my kitchen.
That hope is a surprise and it’s welcome, in this dark and disturbing moment in my country, where hope is often the last thing I am able to feel, and it would be easy to hide away and shrink my world. That hope makes me feel brave and alive, even when my personal darkness overwhelms me. If hope is scarce, and its scarcity makes it dear, then we all need to reach through the darkness and grab someone else’s hand, and share our hope with one another. A new season of abundance is possible, but it’s going to take all of us to bring it to harvest.