by Rabbi Roni Handler
While winter may not seem like the most obvious time to appreciate the abundance that comes forth from our land, I find myself particularly attuned to the rewards that can be gleaned through proper planning and partnership with the land.
Whether I am specifically planning my Tu b’Shevat Seder, or generally trying to live out my values of eating healthily and locally, winter challenges my connection to the wonders of creation. In every other season my gratitude for the fruits of the trees and the vegetables of the land is abundant. When I bite into my first nectarine or strawberry of the season, I am elated. When I prepare my first batch of Brussels sprouts in the fall, I am delighted. But when the gardens are frozen and I am hibernating in my house, I find that my gratitude for the trees, the land, and the harvest is alarmingly less accessible.
Yet, for more and more of us, opening our freezers and pantries lead us to the feelings of abundance and gratitude bound up with Tu b’Shevat. During the winter months, one way I pay tribute to the trees and the land is by eating through the surplus of veggies that I prepared and stored during the harvest months (May–December).
For the last few years I have participated in a CSA (community supported agriculture) program; I purchase a seasonal CSA share and every week a box of fresh fruit and vegetables is delivered to a pick-up site near my home straight from local farms. Not only does this arrangement allow me to support local farmers, but it allows me to enjoy a cornucopia of luscious organic produce every week. Through this process I have: discovered vegetables I would never have purchased from the store or farmer’s market; swapped recipes with my fellow CSA devotees; and learned how much hard work goes into sustaining a farm-to-table lifestyle.
Each delivery is so massive that it requires careful planning to ensure that nothing goes to waste; this means thinking about what I can preserve and eat through the winter. During the summer, I shucked dozens of ears of corn out on my front porch; the kernels were then prepared for the freezer where they were saved for winter corn chowders and tasty quesadillas. Other weeks found me diligently preparing quart after quart of soup that captured the produce at the height of its freshness; those quarts are now waiting in my freezer to be consumed during a cold winter night.
While winter may not seem like the most obvious time to appreciate the abundance that comes forth from our land, I find myself particularly attuned to the rewards that can be gleaned through proper planning and partnership with the land. Grating, chopping, cooking, and storing months of extra meals are not only meditative acts of thanksgiving during the summer months. This planning also enables me to reap the benefits of the land and to experience gratitude for trees and nature during the cold winter months.
More information about CSA opportunities and farm-to-table living can be found on the following sites: