Seasonal Feasting

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September 9, 2008

Right now the tomatoes are in season, and we came home from the Farmers market with tiny yellow light globes, round red ones, Japanese, heritage in yellow and red stripes, zebra stripes with green and yellow stripes, chocolate colored and dry farmed. Such an abundance of delicious flavors! I will remember this week next January when the only choice is a tasteless pale version, shipped from half the world away.

Eating according to the season is an adventure in taste and has benefits of eating foods at the peak of their season. Seasonal foods offer the most flavor, the biggest nutritional punch, are kindest to your budget, and trigger or establish memories to treasure throughout the year. A hot summer day and the taste of a juicy watermelon, fall vegetables roasted, winter soups that heat up even the coldest of days.

Only a few generations ago, we were all locavores- eating the produce of our home area. But with the improvement in transportation as well as storage methods, we can eat the same produce year round. The out of season produce you find on your grocery shelf may have traveled over a thousand or more miles, accompanied by considerable loss of flavor and nutrition along with an increase in price to pay for that trip.

Eating seasonally, not only helps the environment by reducing the transport and storage fuels, it also has positive health implications. Studies have shown that produce harvested during its peak season has a larger content of its signature vitamin than the same crop harvested off-season. So you will get the most nutrients as well as the best prices by eating according to the season.

For the fall, we will find an abundance of hearty root crops such as sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic. When cooking these foods, add warmer seasonings–ginger, pepper, and mustard.
As you choose your pick of the season, keep in mind that the healthiest diet also includes diversity. Focus on fresh; decrease the use of processed foods as much as possible. If you must use prepared foods, add as much fresh produce as you can.

Try at least one new dish each week, seek recipes for the fresh produce you find, subscribe to a foodie magazine, swap recipes with friends etc. I like Cooking Light magazine for their good ideas, and the Slow Foods web site is a great source of traditional recipes done with fresh seasonal produce. Enjoy your new cooking and eating adventure, feast by the season.

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