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The Seasonal Food Guide

Erin Coopey By Erin Coopey 06.11.09
The Seasonal Food Guide
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Summer might be right around the corner, but it’s prime time to take advantage of Spring’s ripest offerings.  There is a great emphasis on returning to seasonal eating these days. However, as you peruse the produce section of your local grocery store, it may be difficult to tell the difference between November and April. Tomatoes, oranges, peppers and cauliflower are available year-round so determining seasonality may be confusing.

Nature’s Bounty=High Flavor, Low Cost

Why concern yourself with seasonality when a world of food options is at your fingertips? Three reasons: taste, nutrition and cost. Sure you can get tomatoes in January. They might be anemic looking, tasteless, gas-ripened orbs running upwards of $4.99 or more a pound but you can get them. Let’s face it, what we are really craving is the sun-ripened tomatoes of our childhood. Plus, a sun-ripened tomato is higher in lycopene (an antioxidant associated with lower risk of prostate cancer and heart disease) than its gas-ripened counterpart. And the cost, well, if you are like me you are thinking twice about your monthly food budget these days; seasonal produce is typically less expensive than its off-season counterpart.

"The beauty of seasonal eating is that you don't have to over-do preparation. The food you choose is at its peak. "

Spring’s Freshest Feast

I challenge you to plan a menu not by flipping through your cookbooks or your old reliable standards, but by seeking what is fresh and economical for inspiration. So, let’s explore seasonal eating in spring.

Spring is transitional, maybe more so than other seasons. We are coming off the hearty vegetables of winter and not quite experiencing the bounty of summer. If you are lucky enough to have a farmer’s market close by, choosing seasonal produce is much easier. If you shop at a big box grocery store, here are a few examples of spring fruits and vegetables to look for: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, berries, butter lettuce, cucumbers, mangoes, morel mushrooms, pea shoots, radishes, spinach, sugar snap peas and summer squashes (including pattypan, yellow crookneck and zucchini varieties).

Simply Delicious: Spring Meals

The beauty of seasonal eating is that you don’t have to over-do preparation. The food you choose is at its peak. Here are a few of my favorite simple spring dishes:

  • Steamed asparagus, tossed with a little butter, salt and pepper and topped with lightly scrambled eggs with fresh tarragon ? delicious for brunch or an appetizer.
  • Simple grilled steak on a bed of arugula with a wedge of lemon ? the peppery arugula is a delightful compliment to steak. 
  • Grilled artichokes with curry mayonnaise ? simply mix curry powder into mayonnaise to taste. 
  • Butter lettuce with baby beets and spring goat’s milk cheese ? a delicate vinaigrette is perfect with this salad.
 
Where can you find seasonal produce where you live?  What are some of your favorite springtime dishes?

 

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  • hypnicjerk By hypnicjerk
    10.26.09  

    Thanks for the great tips! I think I'm going to be a regular at our local farmers' market!

  • Brenda121 By Brenda121
    10.22.09  

    I love going to farmers markets.

  • ChefErin By ChefErin
    10.20.09  

    Momagarry - Don't forget about all the wonderful fall fruit including apples, pears, cranberries, persimmons and pomegranates. Be sure to check out the Fall Seasonal Food Guide. It shoud be posted soon! - Erin

  • momagarry By momagarry
    10.14.09  

    I already miss the fruit sales. Fruit is really high now that it is fall.

  • amymaow By amymaow
    09.04.09  

    MMM I love artichokes. I never knew what season they were, good tip!

  • kqspeaks By kqspeaks
    08.28.09  

    I'm thinking of growing a small garden. I would love to see things grow.

  • Kimberlee81 By Kimberlee81
    08.20.09  

    I would love to have a garden but i dont have the area for that right now, so i visit the farmers market, its a good way to support your local farmers and get fresh produce for a great price. If you go in the afternoon they will give you better deals because they want to make that last sale.

  • Britnev By Britnev
    07.27.09  

    We visit our Saturday famers market weekly. The only chance to get fresh fruits and vegetables that are organic, in season and cheap. We also visit the local 'egg lady' who sells eggs straight from her own chickens. All are very cheap and we get what is in season. Many of the local farmers come when their produce is ready to sell. We never know who is going to be there and it is fun to plan meals around what we buy.

  • jsyang By jsyang
    07.23.09  

    I'm only in Louisville for this summer, but I went to a Farmer's Market one of the first weekends and became addicted to one stall's locally hand milled honey wheat bread. It was so heavy, which is important in my search for hearty bread!

  • ChefErin By ChefErin
    07.08.09  

    crystalkitten - Asparagus ribbons sound delicious! I use my mandoline slicer to make carrot and zucchini "pasta" - long pasta-like slices of vegetables. A quick saute and you have colorful, healthy side dish! You could use your vegetable peeler to make carrot or summer squash ribbons (vegetable tagliatelle) to saute as well.

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