Teacher Debbie: The Jewish Value of Eating in Season


Beloved preschool teacher and Garden Pedagogista Debbie Togliatti shares her wisdom on respecting the land by eating according to the seasons.

Even though spring hasn’t arrived yet, I’m already dreaming about what’ll come in summer: juicy tomatoes and stone fruit, especially sweet cherries, crisp cucumbers, more zucchini than I’ll ever be able to use and sweet peppers in every color of the rainbow.

But wait I must. In order to really appreciate and savor those flavors, in order to let nature do its magical work, patience is required.

When it comes to food, we’re not so good at waiting. Instant, processed, microwaveable: we want something to eat and we want it now. Sadly, to me the same is true for fresh fruit and vegetables. Instead of honoring what is in season, many of us choose to buy produce that is not grown locally.

What does it mean to eat “in season?” Simply, it is consuming produce that is at its peak of freshness and ripeness, what is growing during that particular season. It generally means the food is being grown locally and in many cases, organically.

Teacher Debbie in the Leslie Family Preschool Garden.

Teacher Debbie in the Leslie Family Preschool Garden.

I find Jewish values in observing seasonal eating. To me, it shows kavod, respect, to the land and to those who are growing our food. It is celebrating the goodness of this food in ways produce from foreign lands cannot deliver. In order for you to buy those cherries right now coming over from Chile, they are picked before they are ripe so they can be shipped thousands of miles. We don’t know the growing conditions of this produce nor the growers themselves. The produce is often packaged in plastic or clam-shell type containers. Is it really so important to have that flavorless cherry in the middle of our winter? Is it really so hard to wait until cherry season is here? When cherry season does arrive, imagine the goodness you’ll taste as well as having an opportunity to express hoda’ah, gratitude and appreciation.

People tell me I’m a little obsessive about this “in season” business. After all, we’re entitled to eat whatever we like, whenever we like. I agree; however, I also believe that as Jews, we can integrate some basic values into our fresh produce choices.

If you’d like to eat more seasonally but don’t know how, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  You will be supporting a local farmer who will deliver in season produce to you. Or, merely go to a local farmer’s market. This season, you’ll find broccoli, cabbage, kale and other greens, a variety of citrus, but you won’t find any cherries…

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Debbie Togliatti

Written by Debbie Togliatti

Debbie Togliatti has been a preschool teacher at the OFJCC for 36 years. A former classroom teacher, Debbie left the confines of the classroom to become the Garden Pedagogista. All children, from 18 months to 5 years old, get to experience the wonders of the garden with Debbie’s guidance. She serves as a caretaker on a small farm in Los Altos Hills with 16 chickens, two goats and one rabbit and organically grows fruits and vegetables. In 2013, Debbie self-published her book, Growing Jewish Values: Cultivating Your Jewish Roots in Your Own Backyard.

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