This string of dried peppers was a gift from Annabelle Lenderink, a farmer I know. When she handed them to me on one of her last days in the Berkeley Farmers Market for the season, I remember her saying, “They look really nice when the sun shines through them.” So I took her advice and hung them in my kitchen, where I can pull one or two down at a time to crush and flavor a pot of soup here and a pot of beans there. And every time I do, I think of Annabelle, who runs a beautiful farm called La Tercera, right beside the larger farm she works for called Star Route. Every time the sun catches the peppers, I’m reminded of the rows of chicories and puntarella she grows there and the crew of workers she treats with dignity and respect.
These peppers are also a small symbol of my ongoing commitment to eating local food in winter, even if it means giving some things up — like fresh peppers.
A few years back, I remember hearing about the Dark Days Challenge. Every year, during the winter months, a group of local food enthusiasts around the nation vow to eat locally during the year’s darkest months (because let’s face it: being a locavore in spring, summer, and fall is a piece of cake by comparison).
I’ve never done the Dark Days Challenge, because strict winter locavorism is advanced stuff (even when I worked at a farmers market, I’d still break down and buy avocados before they came back in season). But I do strangely enjoy having fewer choices for a while. And supplementing my diet with foods that I’ve either preserved myself, or bought from farmers in my area.
Even though we’ve made it out of the darkest few months of the year, most of us know that February is the most difficult time for food. Here in northern California the pomelos, mandarins, and Meyer lemons are starting to loose their sparkle. The root vegetables, while plentiful, have started to seem a little repetitive.
In other words, there’s really no better time to inspire each other and share tips and recipes. To help us get through these last few dark months until spring.
For the next week, we want to hear about your struggle to eat local in winter — your shining moments and your darkest days. Leave comments below. Or share your recipes, photos, and stories to us via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. We’ll collect our favorites and compile them here on Grist.
Then, before we know it, it’ll be time for asparagus and strawberry season again!