“What’s for dinner?”
For many years this question was determined by the changing of seasons. Each harvest calendar brought a new variety of foods, and their preparation complemented the seasons and climate.
Fresh asparagus and spring greens transformed into light soups and salads, offering a taste of new life as winter melted into spring. A bowl of fresh strawberries acted as the perfect afternoon refreshment during a hot summer day. A hearty stew of white beans, kale and potatoes could provide an extra layer of warmth during the long dark winter.
Yet with the emergence of technology facilitating the storage and transportation of food across the country — and even across the world — our connection to the harvest year has changed. With access to all food all year round it’s no wonder we’ve become disconnected from the food on our plate.
Of course, advances in food technology have allowed for increased food accessibility and convenience, but these benefits have come at a cost — one that impacts individual health and the health of our planet.
Eating with the seasons provides an opportunity to explore how our food choices reflect the values we want for the world.
Eating in season often means shopping and purchasing from local farmers and vendors. Money spent with local businesses stays closer to home and is reinvested in more local businesses and services.
Eating in season also has a positive impact on the environment by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since food need not travel as far to get to our plates.
Food grown out of season often requires the increased use of herbicides and pesticides to produce the yield needed to meet the cosmetic standards of conventional grocery stores. Finally, eating locally and in season builds more connected communities by creating opportunities, such as farmers markets, for neighborhoods to gather.
How to eat in season
Shop at farmers markets first. Stop by your neighborhood farmers market and see what produce is in season. Create your weekly meals based on the ingredients you pick up at the market.
Ask the vendor their favorite way to prepare each food item. Conversations with the vendors at your local farmers market can yield delicious recipes.
Join a fall or winter CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Many farmers are now offering fall and winter CSAs to provide access to produce and food products that last through the winter months.
Pay attention to prices at the grocery store. When a food is out of season, its price is higher due to decreased yield and/or increased transportation costs.
Embrace roasts, soups and stews. These meal ideas are the essence of fall cooking. Sheet-pan meals of roasted vegetables with meat or beans provide a quick and simple dinner. Soups and stews are an easy way to enjoy the warming flavors of fall.
Katherine Huber is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a board member of Neighborhood Roots, the organization that runs the Fulton, Kingfield and Nokomis farmers markets.