One of my favorite parts of Spring is when the Farmer’s Markets start to reappear in Portland. When market season is in full swing here in northwest Oregon, you can find at least one different market a day to search out that perfect, just picked ingredient you are looking for. I love shopping at Farmer’s Markets because it helps me get in tune with what is actually growing in my area at the time. I anxiously wait for those first Hood strawberries and know I have to load up because their season is so short.
These days we are spoiled because in a regular grocery store we can find almost any ingredient we want at any time- the season doesn’t matter. Grocery stores import their product from all over the world. While this gives us a wider array of choices, the transportation around the globe can be hard on the environment. Unfortunately, there are some vital ingredients which it would be impossible for me to find here in Oregon if they were not imported from other parts of the world. Lemons, limes, bananas and pineapples are never going to grow here. So I do make some exceptions. However, since starting my program at The Wellspring School for Healing Arts, I have become much more conscious of trying to eat with the seasons.
Eating with the seasons forces me to eat food at the peak of freshness, loaded with vitamins and minerals. Buying that food directly from the farmers who have grown it allows me to ask questions about how it was grown, when it was picked and to ask them questions about their suggestions for preparation. Foods that are in season are generally cheaper, saving your money. Eating with the seasons has also forced me to try new varieties of fruits and vegetables. Once I was searching for fresh chanterelle mushrooms for a yummy Hungarian Mushroom soup I love, only to find they were done for the season. The mushroom harvester was able to suggest an alternative mushroom which worked just as well. If I had been shopping in a grocery store, it is unlikely the clerk would have had such detailed knowledge to steer me to an appropriate alternative.
Every area of the world will have different foods which are appropriate for eating seasonally for that particular part of the globe. Obviously, these foods depend on climate and geographical location. However, here are some overall guidelines for eating seasonally.
In spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables which are signs of the Earth reawakening after the long months of cold and snow. Make a nettle pesto or stir up some fresh Swiss chard. Be adventuresome. Browse your farmer’s market stalls for greens you have never tried before. All this new growth packs a nutritional punch- ENJOY!
Traditional Chinese medicine advocates eating lighter, cooling foods in summer. One of summer’s great bounties is the abundance of fruits and vegetables. Strawberries, blueberries, plums, watermelon and peaches are just a few of the fruits which make an appearance. Load up on zucchini, summer squash and eggplant. Summer offers the most diversity in the seasonal eating menu. Make a point to try one new food a week.
As summer fades away, fall continues to offer many options to bring to the table. Fresh mushrooms, butternut squash, pumpkin and winter kale all begin to make their appearance. Think about deep nourishment to warm you from the inside. Warming spices like cinnamon, cumin, ginger and mustard seeds will all turn up the warming qualities of these foods.
As winter approaches, depending on where you live, our choices become a little more limited. Keep in mind the principle that foods which take longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. Parsnips, rutabagas, brussel sprouts and winter greens are all good choices for the winter. Serve these beauties in hearty stews or slow roasted in the oven. The longer the cook time, the more warmth they will impart to the body. Continue your use of warming spices.
With summer quickly approaching, the easiest time to give seasonal eating a try is upon us. What new, local foods are you interested in exploring?
This post is part of the linky party on Food Renegade.