Cooking seasonally can feel intimidating, especially when you don’t understand where to start. There are so many benefits to cooking seasonally, not the least of which are better nutritional quality, more affordable ingredients, and more delicious products.
Cooking seasonally is a more natural approach to life. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables have more available nutrients than those that have been stored for weeks or months
There are many benefits to shopping and consuming seasonal, local produce.
Here are a few of our favorites:
If you’ve tasted a vine-ripened tomato straight from the garden or a crisp, juicy apple straight from the tree in the fall, you will understand exactly what we mean when we say that seasonal, local produce has a much stronger flavor profile. When produce is grown in season, it allows for the items to be ripened and harvested at exactly the right time to make it to your table for consumption.
When you purchase produce from your average grocery store, it has likely been picked before peak ripeness to allow for it to travel to your region of the country, be stocked on shelves, sold to you, and then prepared in your home. Seasonal produce that you find in your local area has the benefit of being purchased at peak ripeness, which results in higher levels of antioxidants, vitamin C, folate, and much more. Choosing to eat seasonally can provide a denser nutritive benefit.
Whether you choose to grow produce in your backyard garden or purchase from a local farmer’s market, it can be a more affordable choice to purchase seasonally available produce. Simple rules of supply in demand mean that when there is an abundance of a certain product, the cost is much lower. Keep in mind that shopping with local farmers in your area removes the shipping and travel costs, also contributing to a lower cost.
Traditionally grown produce is generally treated with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to ensure that the produce stays fresh long enough to make the trip to your grocery store and eventually to your home. While these chemicals serve a purpose, they can also deplete the soil, and contaminate the water. With mass-produced vegetables and fruits, there is also the transportation impact to consider. Most of these items are produced in climates that allow them to grow all year long, which means a long journey to get to you. By shopping locally, you’re removing most of these factors, resulting in a more environmentally friendly option.
Now that you’re well-versed in the many benefits of shopping for local produce, we are here to offer a few quick resources:
In order to cook seasonally, you need to establish what is currently in season for your area. There are helpful resources online, like this interactive tool that allows you to select the time of year and your state to show what is currently available in your region.
Seasonal produce provides the perfect excuse to experiment in the kitchen with fruits and vegetables you may not have used before. Food Print has an incredibly helpful food encyclopedia that details seasonality, how to choose the best produce, fun facts about each item, and tips for cooking or preserving the food.
If you are not already familiar with your local farmers market, we have a handy resource to share from the US Department of Agriculture. This website features markets with two or more farm vendors selling products directly to consumers. This is a helpful place to start to see what is available in your local area.
We hope this blog has helped open your eyes to the benefits of purchasing seasonal and locally available produce items.