It's mid-October, which means it's officially time to wrap ourselves in 17 miles of flannel scarves and fill our shopping carts with so much artificially pumpkin-flavored shit that even the Trader Joe's cashiers don't know what to say about it. It's also leaf-peeping season, which are the four or five weeks a year when we all feel obligated to spend several hours in a car just so we can take four pictures of a maple tree and use the word "chlorophyll" in a conversation with a stranger.
In California, some of the best spots for fall colors are in the Eastern Sierra, in Inyo, Mono, and Plumas counties. Parts of Inyo National Forest have been reopened after fire-related closures earlier this year, and according to the California Fall Color website, the at-peak display in Bishop Creek Canyon has been "the best ever." But for Northern Californians who don't feel like making the drive or figuring out what exactly "near peak" means, you can get an eyeful of fall colors in the produce section of a San Francisco supermarket.
Two Bi-Rite locations in the city are selling brown-paper-wrapped bundles of fall leaves, and for $14.95, you can have around two handfuls' worth of seasonally appropriate plant refuse. Spending $15 on what's essentially compost material would seem ridiculous if there weren't SO MANY THINGS that you could use those leaves for: You can throw them in the air and briefly experience what it's like to be in a Hallmark movie. You can arrange them on the counter to give the kitchen a vibe that says either "quirky craft project" or "disused picnic shelter." Or you can carefully press them in a scrapbook, so you'll have a visual aid when your future children ask what 'depression' means.
According to McGinnis Ranch, the leaves that it provides to Bi-Rite are collected on the farm after they finish pruning their maple trees. And, because McGinnis is certified organic, they haven't been treated with any preservatives or pesticides, so go ahead, eat all the leaves you want.
But for real though, why are they charging 15 dollars for something that is… largely free and widely available in nature? "Our prices are a reflection of the quality of the food, ingredients, and flowers we sell, which come from farmers and ranchers who use methods that protect the land and the people who work it," a Bi-Rite spokesperson told VICE. "We want to pay these farmers who operate more responsibly a fair price to help ensure they can continue farming for decades to come."
So for almost a month's worth of Netflix Premium, you'll get a "grower's bunch" that usually includes three stems and all of the leaves that are still attached. "As the maple season winds down, we expect to have other autumn leaves such as oak and pistache from Figone Ranch," Bi-Rite said. (And here we thought there was nothing left to look forward to this year.)
Honestly, good for the farms and ranches who have figured out how to get paid for something that might've otherwise been mulched. And good for Bi-Rite for realizing that this season is such a mood that we'll hand over $15 to carry a damp bag of dying leaves out of the store. Next year, maybe make them smell like cinnamon and allspice—that's worth an extra $5 right there.