Last week in our blog post, 7 Reasons for Eating Seasonably on the Farm, we talked about the reasons WHY to eat in season. How that benefits our health, the world that we live in, our pocket book and so on. If you missed out on that post please hop on over and read that one first. Today we are talking about the HOW of eating in season. I really think that the practice of eating in season brings the love of seasons to each person even if they only truly appreciate that vine ripe tomato in the hot days of summer. A tomato in any other season just isn't the same!
How to Find Seasonal Foods
When eating foods that are in season first we have to know where to find those foods. It can be as simple as shopping at the same grocery store that you currently shop at or as fun as hitting the farmer's market in your local city or visiting a local farm.
When searching out seasonal foods in your local grocery store you want to think about what season it is. Many of us know that watermelons grow in the summer as do tomatoes, we know that pumpkins and squash come the end of summer and into the fall ect. Many of traditions and our culture are based on these things so some of them will come naturally. You will want to look up online what is in season in your area and when. This great database by the Sustainable Table gives you a way to search your area and time of year for seasonable foods, just click here to check out their database. Usually the price of the produce in the grocery store will tell you how seasonal it is. Also many grocery stores are now placing the details of where the item was grown or placing a local sign near the price tag. If it was grown in Mexico it is probably not seasonal for our area. Look for those locally grown signs and stick with things you know tend to be eaten in the season you are in.
A great way to get an education, without searching online for what is in season, is to visit your local farmer's market or a small local farm. When you visit a farmer's market they will only have farmers there that are local and have grown all their fruits and veggies (even meats) on their farm. This means that they are not imported and they are only growing what is in season. This is probably the best and easiest way to switch to foods that are in season. To find a local farmer's market near you check out the USDA Local Food Directories Listing found here. You can also Google or look on Facebook by typing in a city near you and the words 'farmers market'.
How to Plan and Prepare Seasonal Foods
Now that we know WHERE we find seasonal foods what do we do with them? Many of us are use to eating what ever the recipe we are making calls for no matter what the season is. Hamburgers in the middle of winter with tomatoes and lettuce, no problem! Oh wait there is snow out on the ground... maybe those things are not in season right now.
Some of eating in season requires an adjustment to our mind frame and our eating habits. While it is natural to want a juicy watermelon in summer to cool you off, we are just very habitual people that we have to make a mental effort to change our habits. Which is why the prior post was about reasons for changing to seasonal foods.
Adjusting Foods you Already Love
Here are a few ways to adjust the foods you love to our current season:
#1 Make Your Favorites Seasonal
It is always easiest to start with those foods that are familiar to you and your family and just tweak them a bit to fit the season. Lets take a few examples and tweak them a bit:
Hamburgers- Keep the bun (make sure its whole foods!), keep the cheese, keep the meat (both local and grass fed of course) but lets change out those veggies for the season. In the summer lettuce and tomatoes are fantastic or maybe change it up and add some fresh basil pesto to your burger. How about the fall? In the fall use sautéed mushrooms and cheese. In the winter how about some fried onions from storage and some homemade BBQ sauce, preserved pickles or go for a veggie burger made from beans and rice. In the spring what about trying a cauliflower 'chicken' burger or adding grilled spring onions and herbed mayo to your beefy burger.
Tacos - In the spring, fried cauliflower tacos are wonderful and taste like cod fish. Add some in-season cabbage slaw and your good to go! In the summer some grilled chicken with zucchini and tomato salsa with fresh fruit on the side would be perfect. In the fall how about these Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos with Cranberry Salsa? They look great! Last but not least, the winter taco, how about a potato and chorizo taco? Or ground beef and lentils with preserved tomatillo salsa?
Lasagana- In the spring use a white sauce and fill it with chicken and spring veggies such as asparagus, spinach etc. In the summer its time for the tomatoes and basil to shine! In the fall a good butternut squash lasagna would be perfect and in the winter hopefully you preserved some of those lovely tomatoes into sauce, dehydrated some mushrooms and have fresh spinach growing in your greenhouse or cold frame, or even from the store.
Spaghetti- Springtime spaghetti could be a white sauce with lot of spinach and asparagus, in the summer again the tomatoes and basil will shine through and some grilled chicken or ground beef. In the fall its time to turn those zucchini into noodles or find a spaghetti squash and add to your sauce what ever veggies you have on hand. The winter is always about featuring your preserved foods or cold, hearty winter veggies such as squashes, hearty greens and root veggies. Mix it up a bit with a white sauce, use veggies as noodles, your stored or dehydrated spices and veggies. Get creative!
Salads- We eat these year around because our kale seems to want to grow year around. Our lettuce is totally another story. We always start with a base of greens, what ever is fresh, local, seasonal. We add what we have and there have been some combinations that looked strange but tasted great. Our travels abroad to Russia, Bulgaria and Rome have taught us a few things about salads! Like that citrus in them is better than tomatoes and fruit of any kind for that matter. Our favorite winter salads have apples, dried cranberries or raisins and nuts with an apple cider vinaigrette. Sometimes we eat that through the spring if our spinach is abundant and apple storage lasts that long. Eventually in the spring we welcome radishes, carrots, cabbage, strawberries, sugar snap peas. In the summer its tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, peaches, blueberries, cucumbers. In the fall apples start coming back and we tend to cook more veggies during this time when the weather is cooling off.
#2 Switch Out Ingredients for Seasonal Veggies
Necessity is the mother of invention right? Later this spring I found myself totally forgetting to buy celery. Well it wasn't at the farmer's market so what is a girl to do?! I found that using fennel in place of celery in many dishes didn't affect the taste much and sometimes made it more exciting. It is very similar to celery in its texture and form but has a bit of a licorice bite. I must say, in our curried chicken sandwiches it brought more life to it.
Another example could be onions. In the spring, 'spring onions' are ready to use, sub them in place of your typical storage onion (or what we might consider a regular onion). Chives come on a bit after spring onions so those could be used next in season. You could pull your onions from the garden early and use them as 'new onions' and later on use your storage onions.
Potatoes also do not grow year around but are typically stored for long periods. In the spring new potatoes or fingerlings will be more affordable than your typical baking potato. Start with the new potatoes and wait for the fall for your baking potatoes.
Take a look at the veggies in your recipe, are they what is in season now? Could you trade out something else instead?
#3 Try Something New!
Its ok to change up your eating habits and try something new. Many ethnic recipes tend to use whole foods that are in season because for most of them that is all they have avialable to them. A blessing in disguise if you ask me, they do not have to learn what is in season as we who are reading (and writing this post) have to work to learn.
Resources, Data Bases and More
A lot of eating in season is just eating what is available to us. The best way to know what that is to shop the local farmers market (or purchase a CSA), see and purchase what is available and then learn to make do with those options. That could be related to learning a language by full emersion such as when a student partakes in an exchange program. There is nothing like learning by diving in. Though even those students do their due diligence before they fly off to their country of choice.
Below we are excited to share with you some of the resources we use to learn to eat in season! Our favorite place to find seasonal recipes is on Pinterest! It is probably the main reason we use this social media website. Its just full of too many good ideas. We have a board of recipes for each season. Feel free to click on them and check them out!
Make sure you also check out the Sustainable Table's Seasonal Food Guide online! Its super easy to just enter the area you live in and then the season you are searching and up come a list of your seasonal foods! How awesome is that?!
Another great place to find seasonal recipes at the Sustainable Table
Download our Seasonal Eats Pack here for free which includes a menu planner for local, in season and whole foods as well as a list of seasonal foods and free recipe cards! Don't miss out on this great resource!
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