December 4, 2017
How do you plan a meal around seasonal ingredients (specifically produce) when you don’t know what is in season?
Going to the grocery store doesn’t help. Due to the globalized food system, you can find almost anything (if not everything) year round. Unless you are paying very close attention to the fine print on the labels saying where the tomato is really from, you won’t have any idea that it isn’t in season in the middle of November.
If you have a year-round farmers market, they may have in season produce options which would give you some idea as to what’s fresh. But if you are in a location with no farmers market or not year-round farmers market, what can you do?
First, I’ve found that looking up what produce is in season in your area online, is a great place to start. It gives you a framework to think about what ingredients to include in a seasonal meal.
Personally, I’ve found combo gardening + cooking books (where there is a section on gardening different produce then another section with how to cook that produce) are a great resource for seasonal eating. You learn about how each item grows, what season it is harvest in, and how to cook that item.
There is a growing trend in seasonal cook books, different recipes for each season. Discovering these gems has been very exciting for me, as I’ve learned when to buy certain produce and how to prepare it. In the PNW local seasonal eating is a hot topic in the restaurant industry and there are a lot of resources to learn more about what’s fresh at a specific time. (More on farm-to-table restaurants later!)
For those outside of the PNW, it might be helpful to research local farms and sign up for their fresh sheet. The fresh sheet just lets you know what’s fresh from the farm that week!
Now on to my latest seasonal eating, restaurant-style meal:
Often times I walk past something in my local community food co-op, or natural market, and wonder “now how the heck do you cook that?!” I go home and look up the item in either my seasonal cookbook or gardening book to learn more about it and how to prepare it. (Food Co-ops or Natural Markets often have clear signage for what is in season and what is local.)
For example, I recently checked out the book Farm to Chef by Lynn Crawford from the library. It’s a seasonal cookbook with recipes for each produce item that is in season. I flipped through the pages of beautifully crafted dishes. Landing on a recipe for Cornish hens with Bosc pears and endive. I learned that endive is available during the fall. I’ve walked past endive for YEARS in the store and never considered making anything with it because I didn’t know where to start:
How do I wash it? How do I prepare it? Cooked? Raw? In a salad? In a soup?
With the help of this recipe, I decided to buy endive. And tonight is the night I try cooking endive for the first time ever in my adult life. (It’s my first time cooking Cornish hens too, but that seems less exciting to me for some reason. Also, the Cornish hen is pasture raised by a farmer named Mary based in the greater Seattle area. More on my thoughts about meat and eating pasture-raised animals later…)
It’s an experiment. I’m stepping outside my comfort zone of what I know how to cook in order to try something fresh, local, and in-season.
Stay tuned for the results! (Blog post with photos + recipe to follow!)