Back to basics
This weekend it was the beginning of the month of Elul, the last month of this special Shmita year before the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashannah, heralds the start of our next 7 year cycle (it's not all about this final year!)
So to celebrate we urbanites treated our family to a visit to a pick-your-own farm, returning with an excited and grubby toddler, not to mention a glut of strawberries, Swiss chard, sweet corn, blackberries, courgettes and onions. We would never have purchased as many strawberries as we picked and then bought, so I will be cooking a lot this week, but then coping with local seasonal gluts feels like good Shmita practice.
The part that shouldn't have surprised me but did was just how tasty the produce was. We often feel like we suffer in the UK with inferior fresh goods, but the strawberries were better than any imported from Morocco, and I have never eaten corn so sweet. When I blessed God for the produce of the earth before biting into it, I had no idea of how conscious of that goodness it would make me through taste alone. A timely reminder, really, that Shmita would have been a powerful way to connect with what the land did and didn't produce. And to appreciate bounty when you did have it (presumably in the years after Shmita). As we agricultural tourists skipped through the fields today, it was really the exception that proves the rule of our increasing distance from our food sources. Whether it is the careful ignorance we allow ourselves about meat production, or the thousands of miles we will ship food so that we can eat strawberries in December. We may grow a few tomatoes or courgettes but very few of us have the time or ability to fully live from our own produce or the patience to only eat local. Shmita for me has in many ways been a reminder of much of this, and a motivator to do a little better myself in how I consume, and as this weekend demonstrated, it may mean limiting ones ingredients (or not!), yet for those things you can source closer to home, and eat within hours of picking, your taste buds will be rewarded! Sometimes the simpler, local life brings fun, time together, and even an appreciation of what your community can produce. And in a Shmita year, that community would have been truly essential.