Eating Locally is Eating Seasonally
When one begins to make the commitment to buy food locally, many elements of eating begin to shift. Meals tend to be planned after a trip to the market instead of before. Creativity increases when one is given seven zucchini in a weekly CSA and must figure a way to use them before they spoil. The first peas of spring, the last ripe tomato of summer, and the first beets of fall are all savored.
These changes happen because eating locally is eating seasonally. Local small farms can only grow what uses the light and temperature conditions of the season. CSAs, farmers markets, and gardens feature the ripe produce of that very day, not the same selection of produce picked weeks earlier you will find in the grocery.
There are ingredients not available locally during certain seasons, so one comes to appreciate what is available. Corn and peaches, for instance, are only fresh and local here in Ohio during a few short weeks of the summer. Lettuce is hard to find or bitter during the same time. Carrots, raspberries, potatoes, beans; everything has its peak time for optimum flavor.
Even eggs, milk, and meat are seasonal when raised with traditional methods. Summer eggs are large and deep yellow yolked versus paler winter eggs. Milk tastes like fresh grass in the spring and turns more earthy in the fall. Geese and turkeys naturally mature from spring eggs just in time for winter holidays.
There is a very real connection between traditional foods prepared during each season and local food production. New lettuce arrives in the markets and in our backyard garden after the long winter just in time for spring holidays celebrating rebirth. Sweet corn and tomato salad belong to the summer, just as roasted root vegetables, cooked greens, and squash give us their best taste in the autumn. Even the way we cook changes: summer vegetables call out to be grilled while fall fruits begged to be baked.
Each season's produce can be preserved. This is the best way to enjoy flavors year round, in my opinion. Fruits can be frozen, jammed, or sauced, herbs dried or made into pesto, tomatoes dried or sauced. Home canned treats taste like slices of spring and summer in the dead of winter.
Learning and enjoying what's in season is a meaningful connection with nature and your food. Try eating locally and you will find new appreciation for the cycles of winter, spring, summer, and fall.
Don't forget that it is Local Matters Local Foods week. There are lots of events coming up to educate and inspire you to eat locally in Columbus!
Also, Thursday marks the start of my Kids Cook series of classes. Bring your favorite 3 - 5 year old to Sprout Soup from 11:15 - 12 this Thursday for a fun class about herbs!