Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Season? Not so much...

More thoughts on seasonal eating from The Conscious Shopper.

My last post here at the Booth was my tribute to seasonal eating. "Jackie" commented on that post:
I'm having such a hard time with this right now. The eco-geek in me REALLLLLY wants to eat as locally and seasonally as possible, but truth be told, I don't like winter veggies very much here in Chicago. I'm not quite sure how to get around that one small fact, other than canning or freezing, which I am too late to do. Your comment about feeling deprived rings true and hard for me. Any suggestions??
I thought this was a great question, so I wanted to open it up to all of you and get your insights.

First my thoughts on the question:

From a seasonal eating perspective, I am very lucky to live in North Carolina - it only drops below freezing a few times a year so with the help of hoop houses and cold frames, the farmers can grow year round. I'm guessing that the farther north you live, the fewer choices you have in the winter.

But if you branch out from the norm, you might discover that more vegetables grow in your area than you think. This year we decided to try a winter CSA, and we've already gotten things I'd never heard of before - still a lot of root vegetables and greens, but more variety than we could find at the farmer's market.

You might also try seeking out other varieties of the same type of vegetable. For example, my husband has never been keen on sweet potatoes, but they are a winter staple down here. Last winter, he was eating sweet potatoes grudgingly until we tried a different variety that's available at our farmer's market. It has less of a sweet, carrot-like flavor and more of a potato-like flavor, and my husband definitely preferred it. If you don't like one type of squash, don't assume you dislike all squash. Same with greens and root veggies.

If you're being held back by pickiness, maybe you just haven't tried the right recipes. Here are a few recipe sites that I find helpful:
Also, Envirambo recommended the following books to me in my search for seasonal recipes (though I admit I haven't had a chance to check them out yet because they aren't available at my library - but they're on my wishlist!):
And finally, it's great to want to eat locally and seasonally, but if you weren't able to can or freeze anything this year, I don't think you should worry too much about having to hold off on your locavore goals until spring. As Umbra Fisk said in her column about canned fruits and veggies this week, "It is ecologically important to remain in good health and away from hospitals. Fruits and vegetables help us achieve this goal. They also help us eat low on the food chain, an even more vital objective in the sustainable kitchen." (Stricter locavores might disagree with me and Umbra on this...)

What tips do you all have for Jackie? How do you make it through the long winter as a local and seasonal eater?


Eco Yogini said...

thank you very much to the person who asked this question. I am such a picky eater (although I have grown SO much in the past few years!) and my diet also has some restrictions.
Recipes with sauces to 'hide' or mask flavor (or add!) don't really help- as I can't eat most sauces...

Thank you so very much Erin for pointing out that some veggies may have different varieties that I will like.
For example- I had NO idea I liked turnip until I tried a white one fresh from the market- or was it a radish?? anyhoo- it was DELICIOUS. who knew? tasted more fresh than peppery.

I will check out those links! (Canadian winters make for tricky local eating...) also- I tried a local CSA-type (Home Grown Organics) here in Halifax... and found a few stickers on the vegs' from a local grocery store... ACK. i was not impressed.

Beany said...

My first year of eating seasonally really sucked. I hated all root veggies, I hadn't canned or preserved much and I was missing eating tomatoes year round. I was also very strict about eating locally (as a personal challenge), I was having cravings for all sorts of things that didn't grow in the North East during winter (like oranges). However I found a amish store that sold preserved goods and I frequented them often. The following year was a bit better. Then I just moved to Southern California where I could get all my favorite foods year round. But I don't really recommend that as a viable option

Robbie @ Going Green Mama said...

I confess I cheat a lot by freezing things when they're in-season. But I wouldn't put a blanket ban on foods based on one attempt at eating it. Textures and tastes change depending on the cooking method, recipes, etc. Ex: I hate raw radishes on salads but like them sauteed. The flavor is far more mild.

And don't limit yourself to thinking a food needs to be cooked one way. Take pumpkin - we're always thinking pie or desserts. But I found a great pumpkin-sausage pasta recipe that was fabulous, and my kids and I have tried pumpkin smoothies and pumpkin mousse this week alone.

I hope that helps!

The Mom said...

I married a man who swore he hated most vegetables. Amazingly when I prepared fresh veggies properly, he loved them. If you don't like something the first time, try it cooked another way. Also don't get hung up on things you didn't like as a kid, tastes change.

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

yes i think it's all about finding ways to cook foods that will make you want to eat them. eggplant on its own? ick. but eggplant coated in breadcrumbs or grilled and diced and combined with other veggies? sure! same thing - kale, kinda blah, but adding a little balsamic vinegar and mustard to the sautee pan really makes it good for me.

Green Bean said...

Hey, no fair!! I was going to post about fresh365 next week!! ;-) Fantastic web site.

I agree with many of the commenters. It is all in the cooking. I hated how my mother used to serve squash - basically baked with a little brown sugar. Bleh. Made me want to vomit (though she and many other people love it that way). Pumpkin soup with spiced croutons or pumpkin pasta though? Delicious. Acorn squash has always grossed me out until I found recipes for it on pizza and quesadilla at Smitten Kitchen. Look around, play with things, be adventuresome. And, and I think it's totally okay to freeze things. My freezer is full. Literally.

Anonymous said...

please dont take this as a critisicm about eating locally - i eat local food as much as possible - but i was reading somewhere (the ethics of eating, perhaps) that in terms of carbon/climate change etc more energy may be used growing food locally under glass with heat/light etc than veg grown organically and trucked (not flown!) in. just something to consider. Paula

ruchi said...

The other thing I would suggest is to loosen the restrictions. So, for example, decide that you will eat food grown in the Continental US and Mexico, but will not eat Chilean asparagus. That way you can ease into lowering your food mileage without depriving yourself too much.

And remember the locavore pledge

If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.
If all else fails, at least don’t eat at McDonald’s!

Rosa said...

Paula, that's probably true - that's why seasonality is important. It would be horrendously energy-intensive to eat localsummer vegetables year-round, or tropical fruits grown locally where I live (Minneapolis.)

The thing I've found, and this is probably true in Chicago too, is that if you ask grocery stores where their food comes from, a lot of it *is* local if it's in season locally (though not organic, industrial organic is pretty centralized in just a few places).

Fruits & vegetables that are grown in the upper Midwest that should still be available at the farmer's market include potatos, squashes, apples, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, beets, turnips, kale... there ought to be at least one or two the writer likes. Up here it's colder than Chicago and our last farmer's market is this week, so it's not too late!

You can also pick a few high-energy-cost imports that are easy to grow indoors (like baby salad greens, and sprouts, which both do well in a windowsill) and do those this winter.

Daisy said...

I'm feeling some of the same locavore-uncertainty. I did freeze quite a bit, but I'll really miss the farmers' markets. My freezer is small, too.
I do buy citrus fruits trucked in from the south because in Wisconsin, well, we don't grow them! I support a local music dept. fundraiser and stock up all at once.
I haven't tried the CSA route yet, but I'm considering it.

Also consider looking for a local co-op food store. Many areas have one, and they're worth supporting.

utahlawyer said...

Eating local produce in the winter is also a problem here in Utah. We had our first freeze before the end of September and our farmer's market closed for the season about two weeks ago. To get around the problem, we buy local potatoes and onions in the fall the usually last most of the winter. We grow our own winter squash that usually last until Christmas. We can keep our own apples in cold storage in the garage for about two months before they start to go bad. We also pick all of our green tomatoes right before the first freeze and lay them out on trays in cold storage to slowly ripen. This way, we almost always have fresh tomatoes until Thanksgiving. Last year, we had tomatoes until Christmas.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Paula - I could write another whole post about that, but for now, I'll just say ditto what Rosa said - eat in season and you avoid greenhouse gases (literally). Another reason local foods are less energy efficient is because of our current infrastructure. There are simply not enough farmers markets, community gardens, CSAs, etc, so although the food might not be travelling as far, the consumers are doing a lot more car travel. But we're not going to change the infrastructure by continuing to support the old system. When more people support local foods, the infrastructure will change to fit our needs, and then local foods will be more energy efficient.

Besides, supporting local foods is beneficial for many, many other reasons.

Jackie said...

Wow, my very own blog post! Yay! Thanks Erin for opening up my question to a bigger audience. People had some great suggestions!

I did a CSA last year through Homegrown Wisconsin. So much squash. So many root veggies. So so results with the recipes they provided. I've never considered myself a picky eater until I decided to try to eat seasonally and realized how many things I couldn't even identify, let alone know how to prepare well. Growing up, my veggie options for my dinner were usually along the lines of "Do you want canned corn or canned green beans?" (The tin can variety, not home canned.) I'm coming along slowly, but I have texture issues with a lot of these veggies. It's just hard to imagine going through whole seasons without eating the things I love and only eating things I can tolerate.

Regardless of the results I end up with, I will at least know that I'm taking steps in the right direction and know that I have lots of room for improvement next year. For instance, learning to can all of my favorite things so I can enjoy them when I want!

If anyone would like to send me recipes, jmarchand221 at gmail dot com! :)

AnnMarie said...

Frozen fruits at the store may well be local. Ditto veggies.

Brenda Pike said...

I think a CSA or veg box is a relatively painless way to get yourself to eat more seasonally. If you have the vegetable in your refrigerator and the only choices are to make something with it or throw it out, you're going to find a recipe. Now that my summer CSA is over, I've signed up for a Boston Organics box to keep up the practice.


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