When I first started trying to eat more seasonally, I quickly realized my knowledge of seasonal produce was limited to the things we’d sold at the produce stand where I worked in high school. Apart from corn, peaches and tomatoes, I was pretty much lost when it came to eating what the seasons had to offer. It was a problem.
Thankfully I had access to an amazing farmers’ market that was open year round. I started doing most of my grocery shopping there. Doing so pretty much limited me to products that were locally and seasonally available.* Of course I was (and still am) far from perfect in this endeavor and regularly bought coffee, chocolate and a decent amount of citrus and bananas from the grocery store.
Still, it was a start. As I began eating more seasonally, I realized there was a lot to be said for it. Foods that were available in the winter were hearty and good for soups and stews. Potatoes, leeks, onions, carrots, kale, winter squashes, etc. They were comforting foods that tasted best served warm. Summer produce was more delicate and sweet. Who wants to slave over a stew in 95*F July heat? No one. But who needs to when you have all the makings of a delicious salad at your disposal?
I learned a lot shopping at the farmers’ market and I’m still learning. Helping my dad with his garden this year has been huge. I simply wander around to see what’s growing and ripe for the picking. It doesn’t get more local or seasonal than that!
Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a great farmers’ market (or a dad with a very large garden), but that doesn’t mean you can’t “eat the seasons.” The first step is figuring out what is in season in your area and there are plenty of great resources to help you do just that. Here are a few that I’ve found useful (some are regionally specific, others are not):
*Not all farmers’ markets are created equal. Regulations regarding what can be sold vary from market to market. If you live in Nova Soctia and someone at your local market is selling lemons, you can bet they aren’t locally sourced. Talk to the organizers and find out what they require of their vendors. Local? Organic? Sustainably produced? These are all things to consider.