Eating seasonally teaches long-term thinking

I love watching tomato seedlings poke their tiny shoots out of the soil, eagerly seeking sunlight — or UV light from a bulb, as the case may be.

With the coming of spring it’s easy to feel like there will be abundant food from the ground any time now, but even with an early start, the days of overflowing salads are a ways off. The more substantial vegetables are still a distant dream. Luckily, we’re still rich in carrots, beets, onions, and turnips — I ate the last cabbage last week.

The chickens are laying more in the increased light, and the cheese I made last summer only seems to get better the further we get from high milking season.

I opened a jar of zippy salsa fresca from last August — it’s tangy, has a slight fizz from the light fermentation, and retains the freshness of the tomato, onion, garlic and cilantro we grew last summer. It’s quite different from the cooked salsas I normally associate with canning and preserving. 

One of the reasons I enjoy the ebb and flow of growing what I eat and eating what I grow is the perspective it brings. I practice thinking beyond the week’s groceries. In January, I plan what to plant in April, put in the garden in May, harvest in August, and eat until the following June. And that’s only one growing season, and one eating season.

Thinking about soil development and perennials like berry bushes or native windbreaks entails looking further ahead and learning from hindsight.

While I generally espouse being present in any given moment, I am discovering some great benefits to imagining futures beyond my own existence, or even this culture’s. I am lighter with myself in the context of the big picture, and simultaneously more conscientious of my actions — imagining future people, lands, and animals that will deal with the impact of my life; It’s a good mix.

I’ve been particularly inspired by the Long Now Foundation, which is embarking on many long term projects, like building a clock they hope will run for 10,000 years.

On an edible time scale, the following recipe takes three or four days, including all the sprouting, or a year if you grow your own vegetables, and make your own cheese. Either way, I hope you’ll find it a satisfying combination of last year’s bounty and the first produce of the coming season.

This, and the fact that I’ve acquired 11 kilograms of buckwheat, has turned it into a staple at my house.

Here’s to you, enjoying the long view.

Sprouted Buckwheat ‘Risotto’

Sprouts

1 ½ cups buckwheat

1 cup mung beans or lentils

Soak buckwheat overnight in a jar, rinse well and drain (the liquid will be quite thick). Sprout for two days or until the tails are twice as long as the grains, rinsing each day. Follow the same procedure for mung beans or lentils; the sprouts will likely get larger in the same amount of time.

Risotto

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ cup dried tomatoes 

3 medium carrots, diced small

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

2 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano

3 tablespoons miso in ¼ cup water

1 cup frozen greens (eg: kale, spinach, beet greens)

3 tablespoons finely grated hard cheese (eg: Romano, parmesan)

Black pepper to taste

Fry onion in olive oil and salt until translucent. Add garlic, give a brief stir, then add tomatoes and carrots. Add the buckwheat and herbs and stir till everything is well coated. Add miso and greens, cover, and let cook until buckwheat and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Add more water as needed to prevent it from sticking. Stir in cheese and fresh sprouts and cover for a minute or two to steam before serving. Heat it up by adding Korean chili flakes or a side of kimchi, or give it a twist with a couple pieces of smoked fish. 

Kim Melton is an enthusiastic forager and gardener,

inspired by all things that make up good, local food.