The delicate but insistent perfume of garlicky ramps, declaring the arrival of spring. The dull thump of a ripe Ridgeway melon, a whole summer’s sun trapped within its netted rind.
The delicate but insistent perfume of garlicky ramps, declaring the arrival of spring. The dull thump of a ripe Ridgeway melon, a whole summer’s sun trapped within its netted rind. “These are foods that are not available year-round,” writes Georgann Eubanks in The Month of Their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods Through the Year. “We have to long for them, and in that longing is their special character.”
Following the calendar, Eubanks — author of the Literary Trails of North Carolina series — investigates 12 foods that represent our natural diversity and agricultural abundance, from mountain snow cream to pound figs grown on Ocracoke Island. With photographer Donna Campbell, Eubanks travels across the state to the farms and fishing boats, home gardens and restaurant kitchens of those working to keep these traditional tastes alive. She goes deep into the history of seasonal harvests of foods like serviceberries, whose blooming once meant that the ground had thawed enough to hold services for the winter’s dead. She examines the economic and environmental factors that can make it tough to track down true Tar Heel oysters right now, but she also talks to innovators imagining our future as the Napa Valley of bivalves.
Throughout the book, Eubanks shares her own experiences of living, eating, and drinking in North Carolina. When she and her 94-year-old mother have a goat’s milk tasting in February, they don’t know that it will be one of the last times they sit down together at the kitchen table; her mother will die before spring. The Month of Their Ripening reminds us that our seasons, too, are fleeting, and we must savor them while we can.print it