Last week we discussed adding variation to your menus. One of the ways I mentioned is through seasonal eating. This is really the best way to add variation because by eating fresh, local produce you get more nutrients from your food (as they were harvested more recently) and you don’t get sick of any one thing because they phase in and out of season throughout the year. The one pitfall to committing 100% to seasonal eating is that if you have a craving for something out of season, you may have to wait a long time to have it. I’m a big believer of all things in moderation, though, so you could just have that one thing and then go back to eating seasonally – no harm, no foul!
There are an abundance of charts on the internet to help you figure out what produce is in season during which months, so I’m not going to complicate things by posting another of those, especially because different regions will have different growing seasons based on climate. For example, I could (and have!) planted bush green beans in August and harvested a heap-full before frost came and ended my growing season. My cousins who live in Minnesota, however, would not be able to do the same.
Instead of turning to these general charts that may or may not work for your area, consider these techniques for figuring out what is in season:
1) Consult your local ag extension! They will have a ton of helpful information pertinent specifically to your area to help you determine what is in season when!
2) Find a farmers’ market that only supports local farms and farmers and learn what’s available seasonally by attending the market each week! Many markets have websites where they post what will be available at the coming week’s market, so you can plan away. I do advise you arrive to the market early, though, as popular items tend to sell out!
3) Join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture! Basically, you find a nearby farm that has a CSA program and sign up. Generally, you pay for your entire share at once and then receive produce weekly from the farm by picking it up at your designated drop site. Everything you receive is incredibly fresh and you receive an equal share of all available produce, greatly increasing the variety in your menu planning. Often, a newsletter is sent out to participants to let you know what you can look forward to eating each week!
Each of these three ways are a great way to learn about local, seasonal eating. You’ll figure out how to get the freshest, most nutrient-rich produce while simultaneously gaining a sense of community and trust when it comes to where your food comes from!
Now onto this week’s plan…or non-plan:
This week is a special week – the family reunion! Every night of the week is assigned to a different section of the family. They plan just for their own night and decisions are often made the day before (or sometimes the day of!). What this means for me: No planning! While I love and embrace menu planning, I greatly appreciate my weeks off when vacation times roll around. Work hard. Play hard. Rest hard….that’s my motto! Always remember, sometimes you need to give yourself a break, so when you have one, enjoy it!