As I was thinking about what ought to be my next post, I took a quick glance at the calendar (yes, I do still use a wall calendar) and noticed that tomorrow is officially the first day of Spring!!! Ahhh the changing of the seasons; though I will be honest, Arizona only seems to have two seasons: summer and NOT summer. But, we’re able to still have seasonal produce even in the slight variance in temperature that we experience throughout the year. I know that a lot of people have the desire to eat what is in season and what’s local, to help sustain local farmers and businesses, but don’t know what IS in season or what IS grown here locally. I’m dedicating this post to all of you!
For those of you who do not live in Arizona, please keep reading on!!! I have resources for you too!
So what is the point in eating seasonal food??? I feel like we ought to address this question first before moving on so that you can know some of the why’s and make better food choices. Probably one of the best reasons for eating seasonally is that you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to nutritional value for food. When we buy produce that is grown locally and within their season that is when they have their vitamin and mineral levels at their peak! It won’t do as much good eating that amazing kale salad during the summer because kale naturally grows in winter. Don’t get me wrong, kale still has some nutritional value in the summer but if you want to really get the nutritional jackpot, switch to a green that grows in the summer. Buying locally also gives us this nutritional benefit; when we buy produce that was grown in Peru or Chile or China, the food isn’t as fresh, obviously, which leads to loss of nutrients. So because we want to eat that delicious kale salad in the middle July, that means that produce companies need to source out to countrie
s like Chile (different hemispheres right??) where kale grows in the middle of July; so from the time the kale has been harvested in Chile, shipped, and arrived in the grocery store where you buy it for that kale salad you want to make, the nutrients in kale have dropped significantly… again it still has some value but not as much. Another reason to buy what is grown seasonally is that it’s good for the ground on which it’s farmed. When crops are routinely rotated due to seasons, the farmers are able to get more use out of their land. Again this whole thing ties into nutrients; nutrients for the ground the food is grown in, nutrients in the foods we eat… it’s a whole big circle! Eating with the seasons helps us to fight off colds, keeps us super healthy, and helps the environment. Go planet earth!
Now on to the meat of this post that I hope all of you will enjoy! How do we know what foods are in season??? First let’s think of the four seasons we have (yes Arizona, we technically have 4 seasons…) and what colors are associated with them:
Darker colors. In winter, the ground needs to kind of reset itself from the intense growth that was experienced in the summer and some in the fall. Because of colder temperatures, these foods will be hearty in order to sustain themselves. This is where a lot of your root vegetables (beets, turnips, potatoes), hearty greens (kale, chards) and even citrus will grow! I secretly get excited when I see a frost come during the winter because now the citrus is guaranteed to be awesome!
Bright, vibrant colors and a lot of green still! The earth is waking back up and starting to warm back up from winter. These foods are still going to still be a bit hearty just because there is still a chill in the air. Foods like carrots and onions do great in spring and we get awesome gems like asparagus, peas, and eggplants to make their debut! Citrus is starting to die down a little bit but still take advantage of them while they’re still growing!
Color, color, color, color!!!!! This is hands down, my favorite season food-wise! Everything is super bright and light and so pretty. Foods this time of year tend to be a bit more delicate (foods won’t have a super hard casing to them and are a lot more water-based) so you’ll see lots of stone fruits coming in, berries, melons in all varieties, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers all come in the stores. I love, love love this season. I feel like it’s the season with the most fun. All of the dishes are super light and fresh.
Orange, yellow, red, dark green. Earth is starting to wind down from the summer fiesta it had growing all of our fun summer foods. They also are getting to be a bit heartier because of the cooling in temperatures. Gourds, winter squash, kale, root veggies all start to make their appearances this time of year!
I know that this can all be overwhelming to remember and produce availability will vary from state to state. A great way to know what is in season in your area, it’s as simple as googling your state and the season you want to learn more about. Another great resource to use is this wonderful magazine called Edible; you can find this magazine in every state and can even subscribe to it! This magazine is great, it highlights local chefs, food events, restaurants, farmers, there are recipes in there and a nifty What’s In Season chart that shows you what produce is in season that time of year. It’s $28 for a year subscription; follow this link to Edible Communities to look at their website and find a magazine for the happenings in your area.
I hope this was a bit helpful to you who want to help support our local economy and eat a bit healthier! By making better food choices and buying food according to the seasons, you’ll get the max health benefits and expound the different types of food you eat! So this season, let’s put down the kale salad and lets pick up a lovely butter lettuce salad with some local citrus and shaved beets huh? What do you say??