Kelsey MacDonald, Seacoast Eat Local Intern
What Does Eating In Season Mean?
Eating in season is a way of celebrating the food products, especially produce available in your area at that time of year. This also means waiting to eat foods until they are available to you locally, which maybe a challenge at first. Eating only the freshest, local products will provide the richest flavors and highest nutritional value. Today this can be hard with all the commercial food options available, but you will find food coming into season exciting. And you will be ready for the new products to come in their bounty.
Spring is the time of new growth with products that are leafy and tender.
Summer provides light and cooling foods.
Fall provides the end of the light foods and the beginning of the warming food with its bountiful harvest.
Winter is a time of warming and hearty foods that keep us sustained.
Why Should I Eat in Season?
Fresher foods have more flavor and provide a higher nutrient content. Seasonal foods also have what the body need at that time of year. For example, in the summer produce has a high water content and natural sugars to help with hydration; in the winter foods tend to be heartier and more warming. At any time of year, without having to be harvested early and transported a long distance (which degrades nutrients), local foods will have more vitamins and phytonutrients.
You are supporting your neighbors and the local economy by shopping from farmers, markets or locally sourced restaurants. You are promoting a healthier environment by reducing the carbon footprint of the food from the field to your fork. Lastly, you are also reducing the packaging of your food exponentially, creating less waste overall.
How Do I Eat In Season?
Shop at a farm stand nearby or the farmer’s market regularly to purchase what is coming in and out of season. See the market schedule at: http://seacoastharvest.org/market/ . Through direct sales from the farm, you are able to ask many questions about flavor profiles, flavor combinations and recipe ideas. There are also seasonal cookbooks that offer great suggestions on recipes, and how to prepare vegetables that may be new to you.
Signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share is a great way to ensure you are able to try what is available each week (or bi-weekly). By paying up front, your farmer is able to plan for seeds, labor, equipment costs and more. If this is too much, try signing up for a CSA share with a friend or neighbor and learn the ropes together for the first year.
See more information at: http://seacoasteatlocal.org/find-local-food/csas/
Plan ahead and preserve:
Preserving, pickling, canning and freezing are great ways to ensure your fresh and local products are available to you with a longer shelf life. There are many possibilities and canning makes for great gifts too!
See http://seacoasteatlocal.org/kitchen-garden/food-preservation/ for tips and classes near you.
This may sound overwhelming, but an easy way to start is with freezer pickles:
- 4 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced
- 8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 8 medium)
- 1/4 cup salt
- 3/4 cup water
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- Rinse 10 2-cup plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly. Divide cucumbers, onions, salt and water between two large bowls. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours. Do not drain.
- Add 2 cups sugar and 1 cup vinegar to each bowl; stir until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to prepared containers, leaving 1-in. headspace for expansion; freeze up to 6 weeks.
- Thaw pickles in refrigerator 8 hours before using. Serve within 2 weeks after thawing. Yield: 10 pints.