My very favorite thing about living in Barcelona isn’t the tapas. Or the jamon, paella, or cava. It isn’t even the weather (though the rain seems to be slightly miraculous in that somehow it only happens at night. Intelligent rain?).

It’s the produce. And the fact that amazing produce can be found right at my local Carrefour.

It seems there’s some sort of rule that produce must be labeled by provenance. So you always know where your fruit and veggies are from. Add that to the fact that Catalonians are fiercely proud of their local traditions, and you get a lot of local produce (and cheese, beer, and cava!).

These grapes were a find from last fall. Gorgeous, aren’t they? And almost the size of small tomatoes! Unlike in the US, stores here are pretty in-tune with what’s in season. I can’t get these grapes anymore. You end up cooking seasonally even if you don’t mean to. Oh sure, onions, potatoes, and lettuce are available year-round. But the buckets of citrus that overtook the produce aisles are gone now – though of course you can still buy oranges.

Last week, there was an overabundance of red peppers at the store. I bought several for snacking on, and when I sliced some up for Matt, to my shock, he loved them. “These are almost sweet enough to be candy!” he exclaimed.

Ditto with strawberries, which have been in stores for a month or so now. They’re amazingly juicy and sweet – and must be eaten within a few days or they go bad. At under 4 euro a kilo (that’s about 2 bucks a pound – or less) you can’t beat the deals. I used some to make my first batch-ever of jam and the fruit flavor is deliciously bright and tasty.

It’s going to be hard for me to get used to produce in the states again, where we all seem to accept that mediocre, unripe food is okay – as long as it’s available year-round.