The Last Fresh Vegetable Month

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According to the October, 1919 issue of Good Housekeeping, October is the last fresh vegetable month:

The Last Fresh Vegetable Month

In October vegetables may still hold the post of honor on the table which is planned on a truly economical and sensible basis. By using freely and consistently what is in season, and by utilizing especially the delicious vegetable overflow, it is possible to lessen the meat bill appreciably. If we do use the abundant fresh vegetables lavishly when in season, it will make us feel more comfortable about the increased meat consumption, which the cold weather later makes necessary. The savings on meat and grocery bills when we effect by living largely on vegetables during the summer and fall will help us to balance the budget satisfactorily.  

A hundred-years-ago people apparently ate more meat in the winter than during the warmer months. I don’t think that my meat consumption varies much across the year, though I have vague childhood memories of having strawberry shortcake as the main course sometimes in June, and being told that, “We eat lighter in the summer because it’s hot.”

46 thoughts on “The Last Fresh Vegetable Month

  1. It makes every sense to increase meat for more calories in cold weather. Every vegetable you show will keep for some time. I wonder at what point they stopped calling them fresh at the table. They were all yellow veggies tho; imagine no hard and crunchy greens for a spell.

    1. That’s an interesting question. I don’t know when they’d shift from being considered fresh vegetables to being stored vegetables. Your comment reminds me of how my father would talk about the need to regularly sort apples and potatoes during the winter months when he was a child to get rid of the ones that were spoiled, as in the old saying “A rotten apple spoils the barrel.”

    1. Air conditioning has really changed so much about how we live during the hot summer months. There was a different pace in the summer years ago – though I can also remember working very hard on the farm on extremely hot summer days when I was a child to get crops harvested.

  2. “We eat lighter in the summer because it’s hot.”

    I recall being told that as well. My parents home didn’t have air conditioning and it was hot inside the house, up stairs, during the summer to be sure. I still don’t really like air conditioning, although our house now has it.

    Our food fare is more or less the same the year around, but it definitely varied for people a century ago. Fresh vegetables just weren’t a thing in the winter a century ago, and indeed would have been unthinkable. In looking at signs painted on grocery stores from a century ago, I note that they often noted that they “bought and sold” vegetables. All the vegetables were from nearby.

    1. Everything was so much more local a hundred years ago. It’s fascinating that local stores (which would have been locally owned) actually bought the vegetables they sold from local producers back then.

  3. I definitely eat lighter in the summer. I rarely make a pasta salad in winter, and I never make a pot roast in summer. I did smile at the thought of strawberry shortcake for supper; that used to be a Sunday-night staple. I smiled at the geographic slant of the article, too. Down here, fresh veggies can linger well into December, and strawberries often begin appearing in late January. What a difference a few degrees of latitude can make!

    1. I like how you picked up on the author’s geographic slant. As someone who lives in the north, I hadn’t really thought about it until you pointed it out – but you are absolutely right. Latitude really makes a huge difference in which locally-produced fresh fruits and vegetables are available during the late fall and winter months.

    1. I sometimes think that people would enjoy food more if what they ate was based more on the seasons and what is locally available. The anticipation of certain foods based on seasonal availability leads to more appreciation of the unique tastes and texture of each.

  4. I wonder if we followed this diet advice now would we all be healthier? With AC everywhere it’s easy to forget that it’s summer, the vegetable-eating time of year.

    1. I want to think that we would – but who knows. Perhaps the ready availability today of nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits throughout the year outweigh the issues associated with transporting foods thousands of miles.

  5. I always thought it was spring when there were no fresh veg. The winter months offer us roots, brassicas, spinach, hardy salad items. Come March, it’s a different story ….

    1. “I always thought it was spring when there were no fresh veg. The winter months offer us roots, brassicas, spinach, hardy salad items. Come March, it’s a different story ….”

      Of course, in the north western and northern plains part of the US winter really starts to come on in September (witness the major blizzard in Montana this past week) and fresh vegetables by this time of year were really getting sparse on most tables.

      When I used to put in a big garden, which I haven’t had the time to do the past couple of years, I always harvested everything by late September. That was it. By that time things like lettuce and spinach were done for. Corn came in a big wave and for people who put in zucchini it came in a tidal wave about this time of year. My parents would freeze a lot of peas from the same garden, but I never did, and I’m afraid of home canning. Within a couple of weeks the garden produce was down to potatoes, which some years I’d put in sufficient quantities to make it until the next spring.

      I suspect that sort of experience was pretty common for people of a century ago.

      1. Really interesting – thanks. We used to have harder winters in the UK than now, but even then, people used to harvest frost-sweetened parsnips and Brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner. When I had an allotment I would excavate the odd cabbage and so on from under the snow. But yes, your winters are colder.

        1. One of things that’s really common if you see diaries and recollections from Frontier Army posts in the West is a near obsession with vegetable gardens. They all had them. It’s not the movie image of a frontier fort, but it was the reality.

          After about this time of year, it was a long, long winter with no fresh vegetables at all, which is likely what made them such a big deal during the summer.

      2. Similarly to you, I think that as cold weather approached that the only fresh fruits and vegetables that people had for very long were potatoes – as well as apples, squash cabbage, and a few root crops (onions, parsnips, turnips).

      1. I agree with the exception of apples. Many apple varieties can be stored for months – though they get “mealier” and are less tasty over time.

  6. We share a wonderful memory… strawberry shortcake, with oversized homemade biscuits, fresh strawberries (half crushed, 1/4 whole, and 1/4 cut in half), va
    nilla ice cream, and real whipped cream were our Sunday night supper at least once a season, in late May-early June when the first local berries were available. I did it once this year myself, completely without guilt.

    1. My father, who was a pretty good cook, was big on making biscuits for dinner, and then you have them left over for dessert in just the fashion you note.

  7. “strawberry shortcake as the main course” Sounds heavenly during the hot days of Summer (and during these dog-days of Autumn too.) You were raised right!

    I was raised with meat at every meal. My Mom was a real stickler about that. I think it came from her being raised during the depression and food being so dear. My personal meal planning stays about the same all year, meat isn’t always necessary. In the winter I do tend to cook more soups and do more baking.

    1. In general I don’t think that my cooking varies very much across the seasons – but like you I make more soups during the winter. And, I also do more baking during the holidays – though I am never quite sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

  8. My guess is one-hundred years ago, people’s diets probably were more in tune with the seasons. I guess they ate the fresh vegetables when they were available, and then ate the “heartier” meat-centered meals in the Winter.

  9. Strawberry short cake… a spring time favorite! I’m wondering if meat was used less for it maybe spoiled quicker in summer,also if you didn’t have A.C ,a heavy meal would make you even warmer that I do know.

      1. Thanks for sharing the link. I enjoyed reading your post. The description of how fruit was widely transported via rail across the U.S. as early as the late 1800s was a wonderful reminder of how long the rail system has existed.

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