The Morning Harvest, 2011
I once met a New England fisherman who wanted to know whether there was a difference in taste between swordfish caught early in the day and swordfish caught later in the day, closer to when they’d be cooked for dinner. Commercial seafood processing has evolved such that fish caught and processed on the ship can retain flavor and texture for quite some time. So for some people the idea of discriminating between tastes based on just a few hours’ difference may seem silly. But for a period up through the early 1980s, the New England swordfish fishery was so plentiful that you could play such games. (In later years the fishery would become so depleted from over fishing that commercial fisherman would consider themselves lucky to land a single swordfish a day.)
Anyway, this guy went out of Edgartown, Massachusetts, late one afternoon, fished until he’d hooked a swordfish not far off shore and kept the poor fish alive until he got back to port, where he dispatched the fish, sliced out steaks and got them onto the grill as quickly as possible.
The fisherman was convinced there was indeed a difference in taste between swordfish “caught to order” and swordfish caught earlier in the day. The difference, if there was one, wasn’t noticed by anyone else dining with him that evening. Some even thought it likely that the fisherman had caused the fish to suffer such stress hanging on the line as he rushed back to port that the taste and texture of the swordfish steaks were diminished.
A lot of people who cultivate vegetable gardens enjoy being able to step outside, pull something out of the ground or clip something off a vine or bush and bring it inside to slice and eat or cook. There’s certainly nothing fresher.
I like picking things from the garden just-in-time, too. Tomatoes harvested late in the afternoon are warm and plump and as rich in taste as they’ll ever be. However, I seem to get the greatest satisfaction from harvesting vegetables in the morning. The air’s cooler. Mosquitoes are fewer. The garden’s still covered in dew. Everything you’re going to pick looks, like the day, fresh and new and ready. You can pull weeds and neaten things up while filling a bucket with the morning’s crop.
There’s satisfaction in bringing the harvest in and washing it off. You line the tomatoes along windowsills. Even though this summer our crop is limited to just tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, we use it in just about every meal. And between you and me, sometimes I just stand in the garden and eat things right off the plant.
The Morning Harvest 2, 2011