Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy First Day of Fall

Welcome new readers from the South Florida Daily Blog and elsewhere! I hope you'll like what you find here and stick around. Please feel free to leave comments. Last January, when I began envisioning what I ultimately wanted for this blog, one of the things I'd hoped for was for it to be a place where lots of people looking to learn about local eating in Florida (or other tropical places) could share tips, ideas and resources they'd learned about too. I'd like it to be more interactive. This week I've gotten some great tips and I've even been invited to an avocado tasting! (Email me about that, person who left that comment and we'll set it up.) If you know of something you'd like me to write a story about or if you know of a great event coming up that people shouldn't miss or a local product I should try, please email me.

That said, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy First Day of Fall! This is practically a holiday for me. Fall is my favorite season. I just love it, but at the same time, this is the time of year when I start to get really depressed about not living up North. My heart aches for chilly days, the smell of burning leaves and the tang of spiced cider. When we were little my parents used to take my sister and me to a cider mill in Northern New Jersey called Van Riper's Farms, to get apples, pumpkins and hot cinnamon doughnuts. I remember jack o lanterns and corn mazes, bushel baskets of Macintoshes and bird houses made out of gourds. So when October rolls around, I start longing. It's like a kind of Season Affective Disorder I think.

For a long time, after I first moved down here in 2000, I tried to recreate an artificial version of a northern fall. I notice the malls and stores do this too. Just go into any Starbucks and you'll see maple leaves and pumpkin spiced lattes everywhere. I'd scatter fake red leaves all over the house and set out decorations that reminded me of northern falls. It really only served to make me more depressed and it's a tad creepy with all those plastic pumpkins and crepe leaves.

I don't want to live like that - always wanting to be somewhere else. I want to love where I am and to bloom where I'm planted as they say. A few years ago I read Isabel Allende's novel Daughter of Fortune. In that book, there was one small paragraph that stood out for me and I've never forgotten it. The book takes place a long time ago when Europeans were colonizing and settling in Chile in the Southern Hemisphere where the seasons are opposite from ours. In the book, the Europeans refused to adapt to the topsy turvy seasons, so in January, in the middle of a Chilean summer, they were used to it being winter, and they'd all wear heavy clothes and bundle up even though it was hot. Now this is not even what the book was ultimately about at all, but that one little thing stood out to me because I realized that is exactly what I was doing too, both literally and metaphorically, and frankly, it's pretty silly.

Just because Autumn means something else in South Florida than it does in a temperate climate, doesn't mean that our more subtle version of the season doesn't have a lot of things to love too. I want to figure out what these things are. I want to redefine Autumn for myself. I want to embrace a tropical fall.

So what does Autumn mean for South Florida? What happens here in the fall? What new treats does fall bring down here? What can we look forward to over the next few months?

For one thing, it will soon be lobster and stone crab season again. As the farmer's markets up North shutter their doors to the approaching sleet and slush, our markets will just be opening. The humidity will dry up pretty soon. I know right now all of our area farmers, both big and small, commercial and private are figuring out what to plant and readying the ground for new seeds and plants. In a couple weeks it will be time for planting and our growing season will take off.

What else does fall bring in South Florida? How do you define a Florida Autumn? What other things can we look forward to after today's Autumnal Equinox at 5:18 pm? Leave me some comments and let me know what the season means to you and how you've redefined it. What is your favorite thing about South Florida between now and December? What are the best fishes, fruits and vegetables that come in season during our fall?

I can't wait to hear from you. Happy Fall.

Yahoo News had an informative article this morning all about the scientifics of the Equinox. I found it really fascinating.

The above, gorgeous picture of the red sea grape leaves on palm fronds came from microgardener's Flickr photo stream. I just thought it was beautiful and really captured the season perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at this talented photographer's nature photos. You can see them all here from their original source.


  1. I just moved to Miami a year and a half ago from NYC and am still trying to figure out how to synch with the seasons here -- especially my beloved Autumn.

    I saw a post on Redland Rambles yesterday (http://redlandrambles.com/2009/09/21/gardening-in-south-florida/)that summed it up nicely "While the rest of the country in latitudes to the north of us are at the peak of their season, reveling in all kinds of veggie goodness, we’re sweltering in the heat swatting mosquitos and gnawing on the last of the fruit."

    So far, subject to change as I grow roots here, I celebrate the Fall Equinox as a sign that we are finally nearing the end of the "Mean Season." Soon the humidity and temperatures will drop, soon I'll have the energy and inclination to go out exploring again.

    Most of the local foods I look forward to won't start showing up until December at the earliest, so I focus more on the re-opening of the fruit and veg stands in the Redlands, the cinnamon rolls when Knaus Berry Farm reopens in November, Robert is Here will open again in late October and that means frequent trips for Key Lime shakes and whatever I-never-heard-of-it-before fruits Robert offers throughout the winter season, etc. I look forward to the re-opening of farmer's markets as well, I like the one in Coral Gables the most so far.

    I also celebrate the end of summer by visiting the Fruit and Spice Park, Fairchild, etc.from late October on, which isn't 100% foodie but gets me in tune with local. It's definitely a season of returning to life for me, a distinct switch from Autumn in the Northeast and its life winding down vibe.

    I really look forward to the end of summer and six months of awesome weather here, but that doesn't mean I'm not longing for a road trip through New England right about now. :-)

  2. How beautifully and eloquently put Michelle! Thank you for your lovely and uplifting comment. If you'd like to go on a farmer's market field trip later in the season, email me and perhaps we can meet up.