Before the advent of refrigeration, seasonal living wasn’t an aspiration, it was a long-established way of life. Communities grew and raised their food where they lived, with respect to the seasons. Spring meant new life in the fields, and winter meant more than breaking out the jacket collection. They weren’t eating mangoes in the middle of a Midwest winter, that’s for sure.
We do ourselves a disservice when we eat food out of season, that has had to travel thousands of miles to get to us. We really lose the flavor that fresh food provides. After a summer of growing my own tomatoes and enjoying local heirloom varieties from the farmers’ market, I could really tell the difference. Those tomatoes at the grocery store were “ripened” in warehouses or trucks and sprayed with a gas that turns them red. So instead of biting into a juicy, sweet, meaty tomato, you get this watery, gritty tasteless thing. It’s better to enjoy seasonal produce when it’s their time to shine, and then move on to what the next season has to offer.
As we transition into fall, learn to love your root vegetables and hearty greens. Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, and others are going to be prime-time eats in the grocery store. You’ll even see the change in your local farmers market; and if you’re wondering what exactly is coming into season, just ask them. They’ll be happy to tell you what their freshest produce will be. As the season progresses, you’ll probably still see goodies such as strawberries and oranges at your local mega-mart. But look at those stickers and see where they came from. Chances are they weren’t grown near you (unless you happen to live in a more tropical area, of course). They probably came from Mexico or South America.
Here in southern California we’re lucky to have an extended growing season, however it doesn’t extend forever. Now is a good time to plant broccoli, cauliflower, beets, cabbage, peas, spinach, celery, and arugula. If you live somewhere that gets harsh frosts, I would recommend keeping an eye on the weather forecast. Be on the lookout for any sudden drops in temperature overnight, as you may have to cover your plants, or bring them inside if they’re potted.
Eating seasonally and eating locally go hand in hand. Chances are if you’re striving for one, the other naturally follows. This not only ensures that you’re eating the freshest food available, but that you’re supporting your local farmers and local economy. Win, win, and win.
There’s nothing like a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dish to enjoy this fall season. One of my favorites is my Roasted Butternut Squash Mac ‘N’ Cheese.