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Join Me in Celebrating Local and Seasonal Foods!

farmers market - carrots - produce

One of the biggest changes in the culinary world over the last 75 - 100 years is the year-round availability of so many different foods which used to be seasonal. Walk into any decent sized grocery store here in the U.S., and you will find a full produce section, no matter the season of the year. It is currently February in Michigan, but my wife came back from her shopping trip this morning with fresh blueberries (from Chile). 

While I can greatly appreciate the convenience factor of being able to buy blueberries in February, I think we are losing some of the special nature of foods that have local seasons. If I can buy blueberries all year, then that week in July when the local berries are finally ripe loses a good bit of its specialness.

I know that most of us do not have the discipline (or a wide enough palette) to commit to only eating those foods that are in season locally. But I would challenge you to find a way to celebrate those things that are local and seasonal. They may not make up your entire diet, but they can sure be a highlight of your culinary week.

There are a number of ways to learn to use more local and seasonal produce and ingredients. 

  1. Get to know your local farmers market and look for ways to cook with those fruits and vegetables that are in season. There are a number of very good cookbooks that take the tack of listing recipes by ingredient that can be a big help (Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots and David Tanis’ Market Cooking are great examples).

Our local farmers market moves to an indoor space for the winter months, and it is a great source for carrots, rutabagas, winter squash, and leafy green vegetables.  I love visiting the market, picking out the freshest produce I can find, then coming home to look for creative ways to highlight that produce in a meal.

2. Take the “local approach” one step further and develop a relationship with a local farmer. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share is a great way to have fresh produce and also to support local farming families.

3. “Pick your own” -  Here in West Michigan, there are great opportunities to pick your own strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and apples. And roadside stands for asparagus or corn are very plentiful.

Fresh Picked Strawberries

So, I challenge you to make local and seasonal produce special. I look forward every year to the fresh corn season, to the time when the blueberries are ripe, to apple season in the fall. Yes, we enjoy those products at other times in the year, but we celebrate those “fresh” seasons of the year in our cooking, in our snacking, and in our gifting (dried apple chips make a great gift!!).

 

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