S-E-A-S-O-N-A-L-I-T-Y. A concept with meaningful dimensions in economics, engineering, financial theory, statistics, climate, architecture, tourism and… ah yes, F-O-O-D. Seasonality in all of these fields of study refers to predictable changes or patterns that repeat in a time series during the calendar year. Food, real food, is a product of nature that reveals predictable repetitive patterns that occur throughout a calendar year. The optimal place to observe the repetitive patterns displayed by real food during the year is a farmers market.
Farmers markets are sales venues that occur on a regular basis, at which local farmers and producers sell a variety of fresh food that reflects the season of the year. What are your local farmers growing? The answer is always dependent on which season of the year it is when you ask the question. For that reason, although markets are repetitive events that bring together many of the same elements week after week, you will find that every visit to the Farmers Market is a unique experience.
Local Rio Grande Valley growers come together at El Mercado Mall every Saturday throughout the entire year to display and sell the vegetables they have just harvested. During the winter months, the Market had plentiful supplies of radishes, turnips, beets, lettuces, greens, winter melons, broccoli, and citrus fruits. Now that summer is approaching, the Market is flush with carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, chiles, basil, cilantro and other herbs, onions, eggplant, potatoes, squashes, string beans, and much more. As the seasons change, so too the vegetables and fruits at the Market change, and shoppers themselves become a part of the natural cycle of planting and harvesting.
A common topic of conversation between growers and shoppers is that one vegetable or another is almost ready for harvesting, perhaps even next week, or that all of this (and none of that!) was perfectly ripe for harvesting that morning. Other topics often discussed are growing methods, varieties of vegetables adapted to the RGV climate and soil types, field design, raising free-range versus pastured chickens, and of course, how to use specific in cooking produce or baking. Some growers offer freshly sliced vegetable samples for tasting, and others enjoy expounding on the history of a particular vegetable variety.
As a consumer of fresh local food who shops at the Market weekly, you begin to get a feel for the fact that the produce you buy is intimately connected to the current time of year. In turn, your awareness of how to cook fresh food increases, and your cooking methods start to synchronize with the season. As you share what you have purchased with your family and friends, everyone develops a sense of sincere gratitude for the growers’ hard work. And, a hidden benefit of knowing the people who grow your food is that if you can’t find something you want to buy, you can ask them to grow it for you!
Bring the seasons into your home by shopping at the Harlingen Farmers Market, every Saturday from 3 - 4:30 p.m., 712 N. 77 Sunshine Strip in the courtyard at El Mercado Mall.