Spring has sprung (out west, that is)

Growing up in a place so close to the sea, every winter was brutal. White winters lingered for months and months and the Atlantic winds constantly slapped our faces with air so cold that pink-red rashes appeared on our pale cheeks every time we stepped outside. As the winters waned, slush appeared–a thick snow mixed with salt, sand and dirt—and soaked our clothes in less than a second if we had the misfortune of touching it.

Eventually, we kids all knew, winter would end. The slush would melt and prove once again that grass really could stay alive under a mammoth snow bank and that streets were made of black pavement and not grey ice. We anxiously awaited the firs sign of spring to peel off our parkas and watch icicles melt.

For me, the first sign of spring was the first bloom of bright yellow daffodils on the still snow-covered lawn. Then, it was the coming of the fearless crocuses that grew despite the inevitable, life-ending cold snap that would always come. Though the days grew warmer, it would be months before the local gardens would be ready to produce any fruits and vegetables.

June would be the first month for our local road-side market stands to open with a lean offering of peas, beets and spinach. In Massachusetts we would have to wait for the sweltering days of summer until the U-Pick strawberry farm or pick your own apple orchards would let us come in and fill our bags with produce. Some kids longed for summer camps while I craved plump, juicy strawberries fresh and warm from the sun-drenched earth. Now that I’m all grown up and living on the west coast, I’m happy I don’t have to wait that long. Thanks to the amazing southern California climate, strawberries (juicy and in an abundant flavors and styles) are available already. So are blackberries, blueberries and gorgeous citrus fruits.

Going to the Farmer’s market is wonderful, but if you are like me and miss the childhood glories of picking the fruits and vegetables yourself, there is an organization that wants to make that a little bit easier for you.

Thanks to my friend Leah at SpicySaltySweet, I’ve just learned about the wonderful organization, Eat Well. In conjunction with Sustainable Table, Eat Well, a free online directory of thousands of family farms, restaurants, markets and other outlets that offer local, fresh and sustainable food in the United States and Canada, creates a guide to the seasonal foods that are available in every state. Just click on this and you’ll find a listing of the foods that are in season in your area.

For Southern Californian’s like me, you might be interested in going to Pickyourown.org to get up to date information on what farms have available and what local farms allow people (and kids) the chance to pick their own produce. PickYourOwn.Org also has lots of tips on canning, pickling, and how best to prepare for a day of picking.

Thanks to my new favorite website, I’m looking forward to a day trip to a strawberry field for a day of picking!

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Brooke Burton nominated for best food writing

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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

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