When you go to the grocery store it’s always the same.
All the time, year round, you’re guaranteed to be able to buy any produce item that your heart desires. This is because it’s shipped from across the world if it has to, just to be there for everyone to buy it.
Because of this many of us have no idea what is in season, or how to adapt to this type of eating.
If you want a fresh summer salad you’ll have to wait until spring or fall because that’s when lettuce grows, in cooler weather not the heat of summer (which tends to be when you want them the most).
If you want a zucchini you forgo it most of the year and then get swamped with them for 2-3 months in summer.
Fall & winter is met with comforting root veggies and squash, whereas spring offers lighter more cleansing greens and herbs.
Eating in season is something I highly recommend. It requires a shift in your tastes and awareness of what’s available.
Why should you learn how to eat in season?
Here are some of the many benefits to eating in season:
- The cost of produce in North America has gone up. Way up. This is partly due to the California drought, which is far more serious than many realize. Your local farmers and CSA vegetable boxes are almost always cheaper than the grocery store prices because there’s no middle man, you’re buying directly from the producer.
- The taste is beyond better when you eat something fresh and in season that was picked at the time of ripening. This is because there’s no need for transportation so local food is picked within a day or two of you buying it. Produce that ripens on the plant instead of being pulled weeks earlier to ripen on the shelf also has better nutritional value.
- Eating in season and local means you’re supporting your local economy, real families and small farmers instead of corporate giants. It’s nice to see where your dollar is going, especially at farmers markets or CSA shares because you get to know them and even tour the farm.
- Connecting with the seasons. Go into a grocery store and you can’t tell what season you’re eating for. This is not the case with seasonal produce: you don’t eat tomatoes year-round unless you preserve them yourself. When you eat in season you create memory connections and celebrations with food and learn to appreciate it more, especially year after year.
- Reduced CO2 emissions which is better for us and the planet. The transportation and gas usage is greatly reduced when you’re buying local as it didn’t have to travel by planes, trains, trucks, you name it. Better for the planet and our bodies!
How do you learn to eat in season? Are you like me and love a good challenge?
Do you wish to learn more about gardening? To learn how to eat in season and from your own homegrown garden veggies, fruits and herbs?
Would you love a challenge that creates healthy eating habits, a connection to your food and the seasons?
Welcome to the Eat from the Garden Challenge!
This challenge aims to re-connect you to your food by paying attention to where it comes from and the time of year your produce is in season. I want you to be inspired to learn to create healthy seasonal recipes and to maybe venture into preserving seasonal foods for the off-season.
How does the challenge work?
The goal of this garden challenge is to eat from your garden as much as you can for one month. Because we all don’t have the space to do this, your goal might be to create one meal a week from your garden. I encourage you to shop at farmers markets or join a CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture- you’ll receive a weekly box of produce) for the meals not from your garden.
The #1 reason to do this challenge is to learn how to eat in season so make your own goals to suit this transition.
Here are some ideas for this challenge depending on your location:
- If you have limited space grow windowsill herbs and use them once or twice a week.
- Grow as many containers of food as you can. Some great crops for containers include swiss chard, baby greens, mesclun greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, even some zucchini! There are many seed catalogs offering container specific varieties!
- If you have the space to have a medium to large-sized garden challenge yourself to only use garden veggies (or even fruit!) for that whole month.
- If you don’t have a garden at all, challenge yourself to only buy from farmers markets or join a CSA share. Why? Because this will teach you what foods are in season and learn how eat them!
- If you’re feeling super hardcore and up for a challenge, challenge yourself to do more than 1 month straight.
Our family is challenging ourselves not buy any vegetables from May-November (unless on vacation)
We don’t include fruit because we’re not set up yet for fruit production, so fruit we’ll buy locally grown fruit within 100 miles.
Getting Creative with your Meals
First you’ll need to take a look at what’s in season for your area. This will vary greatly depending on where you live in the world. Because most of the readers are from the US this Epicurious map can tell you. For where we live in a zone 5 here’s a list of what’s in season.
After you learn what’s in season, you’ll need to be creative and explore in season recipes. There are many cookbooks out there and there’s an endless amount of recipes online.
Here are a just a few of the many websites that have great seasonal recipe inspiration, often by specific vegetable or season:
Pinterest is also a fantastic place for seasonal inspiration. Reformation Acres has a wonderful series of spring-winter recipe boards.
My #1 tip for seasonal eating: Creativity goes a long way!!
For example, if a recipe calls for onions and they’re not in season, you can explore chives in the spring time, green onions in the summer and fall, and then storage onions in the winter time. Garlic is a common food spice, but you can enjoy garlic scapes or even garlic ‘green’ shoots before the fresh garlic arrives or pull up younger smaller garlic plants. If you want potatoes you can eat new potatoes in the summer and main-crop potatoes in the fall and winter but unless you have a cold-room, you might not be eating potatoes year round.
One of my favourite ways to teach myself to eat in season was to go into the garden, harvest what was there, and just make something with what I had.
This is difficult if you don’t know the basics of preparing food or cooking. If you prefer to follow recipes then use books or the online world to guide you. If you’re a decent cook that can make something on a whim, try it, be explorative. Have lots of mint? Figure out a way to mix it into your meal! Stuck with too many tomatoes? Make a large pot of soup with whatever other herbs are growing that time of the year. Have way too many zucchini? Make up a casserole!
Remember that learning to eat in season will take time and patience because we’re used to getting whatever we want when we want it.
You’ll find that reconnecting with your seasonal food will not only teach you to slow down and think more about your food, but it will connect you with rhythm of the seasons. This will make you look forward to each seasonal food item year after year. It will also make you second guess purchasing your food items during the winter months when it comes from miles and miles away and maybe inspire you to start preserving some of your local farmers or your own homegrown food for the winter months.