Tis The Season… For Seasonal Eating

by Elizabeth Cowie, M.S., R.D., L.D., Store Nutritionist, Sappington Farmers Market

Warm weather is here and for those who are seasonal eaters it is a time to rejoice. Eating seasonally is a popular trend and with good reason. It means enjoying our food at the height of its natural harvest time, when it is at its peak for flavor, ripeness and nutrients.
There are many reasons to eat seasonally. For one, buying seasonal foods are often less expensive because the supply is greater and there is less transport cost. Less fuel used to truck or fly food thousands of miles from where it’s harvested to grocery stores where it’s sold equates to less strain on the environment. Eating seasonally also helps support our local economy by keeping revenue in our community and allowing farmers to earn fair wages for the work and dedication that goes into growing these foods. Local farmers are supported by buying food from farmers markets, joining a local Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), and choosing local items available at the supermarket.

Since eating seasonal foods often taste better, one might be more inclined to discover new items, add more variety to their diet, and improve their overall nutrition. Foods grown and shipped from other parts of the world are shipped unripe and thus tend to lose flavor, or the flavor is not allowed to fully develop. When eating just-picked, fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, they are at or near their peak flavor and nutritional value. Seasonal foods may require less preparation to enhance their flavor, so less likely need added fat, sugar, or other less-than-healthy methods when preparing. And since local produce is at the market shortly after picking, seasonal foods are often grown organically and free of ripening agents, waxes, and preservatives.

While determining which foods are seasonal depends on location, the items available can be categorized into seasons. Spring brings cooling leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuces, and herbs. Summer is the height of seasonal eating, yielding fruits like berries, peaches, melons and vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and corn. Fall brings warming, autumn harvest foods, including apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, turnips, and onions, most of which can be stored and kept thru the cold winter months when very little grows.

A great way to become more familiar with what foods are in season is by exploring local farmer’s markets in the area. After purchasing seasonal produce, build a menu around the fresh finds. A good rule of thumb to follow is “what grows together, goes together” such as tomatoes with basil, and corn with bell peppers. Also, do not be afraid to get creative with recipes by swapping out seasonal items that are available. For instance, watercress can be swapped for arugula or spinach in a recipe if that is what is on hand.

Sappington Farmers Market is proud to announce its inaugural season for its Farm to Family CSA. The program runs until October 29th. For details, see our website, www.sappingtonfarmersmkt.com.

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