By Erin Hoffman, Meredith College Dietetic Intern
You may have heard of buying or eating “in season,” but what does it actually mean? Seasonal foods are those that naturally grow and are harvested in your local area; available options vary based on region and climate. Traditionally, this is how everyone used to eat because transporting food long distances wasn’t possible. Over time, advances in transit have made it much easier for us to access a larger variety of fruits and vegetables year-round at grocery stores and restaurants. If you buy tomatoes from the store in December, for instance, it is likely they came from somewhere quite far like Mexico where it is warm enough to grow them during that time of year.
So, why should you go seasonal?
- Cost savings: Seasonal foods are harvested and transferred to the consumer within a short time, which makes them very economical compared to produce that has traveled a long distance. When buying from the farmer through a roadside stand or farmer’s market you can usually bargain for a discount and you won’t have to pay sales tax.
- Fresher produce & better for the environment: Decreased transit time between farm and consumer lends to fresher produce and a smaller carbon footprint.
- Increasing fresh fruit and vegetable intake: With inexpensive fresh produce available, it’s easy to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your day; this is an integral part of a balanced, healthy plate.
- Help the community: Purchasing from your local farmer benefits the local economy.
- More variety: Small farm stands or farmer’s markets are great places to find new varieties of fruits and vegetables that are new to you and your family.
- Connect with your food, farmers and community: Farmers are excellent at assisting consumers with choosing varieties of foods that go well together and are knowledgeable about their crops. For example: They can educate you on which type of pepper is sweeter or hotter or better explain organic or non-organic farming methods. They can also usually give you a great insight into when certain vegetables will be available that season since it can fluctuate with the weather.
Late April is a great time to purchase local arugula, spinach, strawberries, mushrooms and spring onions in central NC. What a perfect combination for a salad! You could also try adding other toppings like feta cheese, walnuts or apples. Plan a trip to the farmer’s market this weekend and get the family involved in making this simple recipe:
For the salad:
2 cups of spinach
1 cup arugula
½ pint of chopped strawberries
¼ pound mushrooms, chopped
2 stalks green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
For the dressing:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Make the dressing by mixing the balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small lidded container and shake together.
Toss spinach, arugula and dressing. Top with strawberries
Sauté mushrooms and onions with 1 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet for 3-5 minutes or until soft.
Top salad with mushrooms and onions and serve immediately.