Embracing seasonal produce can reap some large rewards. If you’re itching to eat more local produce, support farmers directly, and get the freshest, tastiest food, the key to all of these goals is seasonality. Traditional cuisines from all around the world revolve around the seasons and their respective agricultural cycles. In Europe, there are asparagus festivals to celebrate the few weeks when this vegetable matures. In Italy, the first tomatoes are awaited with great anticipation; once they arrive, they are preserved through canning or drying so that a taste of summer may be enjoyed year-round. By embracing and celebrating the seasonal produce, we can make food more exciting and dynamic.
Tips & Tricks
Find a seasonal produce chart for you region. This can help you plan your meals and shop for seasonal produce. Good places to start looking include your local farmers market, the local agricultural bureau, or a local farm. Of course, farmers have the best knowledge of all about when their produce will be ready to harvest.
Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs can also be a great way to learn what’s in season, because these programs deliver local, organic, and seasonal produce. Find out about CSA’s near you here.
Challenge yourself to find as many ways as possible to prepare the same produce. Take spinach, for example: spinach quiche, sautéed spinach with garlic, fresh spinach salad, spinach soufflé… the list goes on and on for each fruit and vegetable.
Jams, sauces, and pickles. Learn to preserve foods, so that you can enjoy the summer harvest through the winter. There are many techniques: drying, freezing, canning, and cold storage, to name a few.
Northern California local food resources:
Seasonal food chart for many U.S. regions:
Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, by Brian Halweil.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver.
Putting Food By, by Janet Greene.
The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food, by Janet Chadwick
Asparagus harvest only lasts several weeks for the average crop. Source
During much of the year, tomatoes are shipped thousands of miles to the U.S.
Tomatoes from across the world are picked green and ripened later with Ethylene, a ripening hormone.
Some crops—greens, beets, broccoli, carrots, and radishes for exa—can be grown year-round in temperate climates such as California.
Beets and carrots can be kept for up to 3 months, if stored in a root cellar at 32–40°F. Source