If the idea of seasonal eating conjures up thoughts of boiled squash and plain cabbage, it’s time to open up your mind to the diversity and delectability of eating what’s ripe right now.
It can be tough to think about eating seasonally when what we see in the produce aisle so rarely changes. Sure, we’re more likely to score good strawberries and sweet corn in the middle of summer than in the dead of winter, but that’s about the extent of the average American’s seasonal eating.
While it’s certainly convenient to enjoy fresh tomatoes on Christmas Eve, we may be missing out on the benefits of eating seasonally — benefits to our bodies, the environment and our local economy just for starters. Plus, cooking with foods that were picked when they were ripe makes for richer, more flavorful dishes.
What does it actually entail to start eating seasonally? It might not be realistic to expect to eat 100 percent seasonal, local produce, but it’s definitely realistic to start taking some steps in that direction. The benefits are immense, but some basics are that you’re supporting your local growers, you’re eating food that wasn’t shipped across the world at a cost to the environment and you’re also avoiding foods like ethylene-ripened tomatoes, which are picked green and made to ripen quickly with ethylene gas.
Once you get started, you’ll be surprised by how enjoyable (and, yes, even delicious) seasonal eating can be. Here are four simple steps you can take:
1. Visit Your Local Farmers Market: If there’s one place to find seasonal food, it’s at the farmers market, where local farmers sell their produce directly to consumers. This supports local growers, cuts out the middle men and ensures that you get the freshest produce available. Use Local Harvest to find a market near you.
2. Join a CSA: A CSA, which stands for community supported agriculture, is basically a subscription to fresh produce from a local grower. You pay an up-front fee for a specified period of time, and then each week during that time you’ll receive a huge box full of fresh, local produce. This way, you can plan recipes based on what you have rather than what you see on the shelves at the grocery store. Find a CSA near you at Local Harvest.
3. Find Delicious Seasonal Recipes: If you’re not sure what’s in season, several magazines offer great recipe resources on their websites. Whole Living Magazine offers a seasonal foods tab; the Real Simple Magazine website features a seasonal food guide; Cooking Light Magazine gives great in-season recipes and Clean Eating Magazine has a wonderful seasonal recipe resource as well.
4. Try Something New: One of the most fun parts of eating what’s in season is that you often get to try new fruits and veggies you’ve never prepared or even tasted before. If you’re willing to try new flavors and enjoy them when they’re harvested, you’ll get the benefits of deliciously fresh and locally grown food.