Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What's so special about sweet potatoes

The Simply in Season recipe of the week, Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos, is on my personal top 12 (or 13) list of favorite SIS recipes (narrowing it down to a “Top 10” is just too hard). It’s definitely my favorite meatless burrito. The combination of sweet potatoes and black beans is fabulous -- not to mention an excellent nutritional choice.

To make this recipe super easy and fast, don’t bother with the baking step; just warm a tortilla in the microwave for a few seconds, scoop in the filling, and eat.

(Having chopped onions in the freezer ready to go speeds things up, too. I like to chop 8-10 cups of onions at a time with the slicer attachment on my Bosch machine -- no weeping required -- and spread them in 9 x 13 pans, freeze, then transfer to gallon-sized zippered plastic bags. Break off chunks as needed and throw right into your skillet. The same process works well for garlic (use the large holes of a grating attachment), and fresh ginger root can be peeled, minced and frozen this way, too. In summer and early fall, seed and chop bell peppers to freeze like this as well; mincing hot peppers with a machine will prevent burning your hands. Recipes go so much easier when these initial chopping steps are out of the way.)

My only problem with this burrito is that, alas, there aren’t many local growers here that offer sweet potatoes. Thus it doesn’t seem like I get to make them often enough.

It reminds me of the sweet potato fries my husband and I treat ourselves to at Burgerville. This is a Northwest fast food chain with an impressive commitment to using local ingredients. It means that their menu changes with the seasons. Fresh berry milkshakes are available only in the spring and summer. Walla Walla onion rings appear in summer. And sweet potato fries are only around for a few months in the late fall/early winter. We like them so much that we have been known to skip the burger part of a meal and just go for the fries.

I’m always sad to see the sweet potato fries disappear from Burgerville’s menu. But there’s no denying that they wouldn’t be as exciting if they were available all the time.

In Simply in Season, one of the story contributors reflects on how the abundance and year-round availability of foods in North America comes with a downside (page 196). What is everyday by definition is less than special. Rather than delighting in each season’s edible wonders, we take them for granted -- even to the point where we feel entitled to them and disgruntled when we can’t get what we want when we want it. Appreciation sours into indifference or worse.

Returning to eating with the seasons offers a chance to get back some of the joy in food our culture has lost.

What do you say? Are there foods you eat only at certain times of year, and that are more special because of it?


At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Ailsa Ek said...

Yup. Blueberries, for starters. I grew up in Maine, and blueberries grow all over the place here, so I learned to love them when fresh and warm from the sun (ditto for raspberries). Frozen, they just aren't as nice, to put it mildly, and from the store they're expensive and generally the wrong sort of blueberry anyway.

Corn on the cob is another. I eat corn on the cob when it is available at roadside stands, and stop eating it when the harvest is over. I really look forward to the corn harvest.

If I liked asparagus or fiddleheads, I'd eat them only in season as well.


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