Seasonal Eating

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Hopefully by now we’ve all begun to heed the plea for eating “local”. Buying foods that are produced close to where we live rather than those that have been shipped from across the country or the world makes sense. Foods that have been recently harvested have the best nutritional value, the best flavor, are most affordable and have the least environmental impact.

The produce section of your local grocery store will likely look pretty much the same year round, with many foods that have been harvested days or weeks earlier and shipped many thousands of miles. At your local farmers’ market, your selection may be somewhat limited, particularly during certain seasons, but you’ll find the freshest foods that are in season in your area. When you’re committed to eating “locally”, you may have fewer foods from which to choose, but you can challenge yourself to get creative with what’s available. (This is particularly true if you belong to a Community Supported Agriculture service that just drops a box for you with a random assortment of fresh produce!) You’ll probably find that throughout the year you’re eating a wider variety of fruits and vegetables when you’re no longer buying foods that are grown elsewhere, and this is a healthy practice!

So what’s available now? Well, while all the seasons have options that are delicious, I think it’s fairly safe to say that spring and summer have the most variety. And spring, in particular, is when the farmers’ markets and CSA boxes are going to be filled with the tender, leafy greens that are the harbinger of the season. Baby lettuces, parsley, basil, chard and spinach are just a few.

All of these are best eaten raw, and without too much fuss. A current favorite is a salad of fresh Italian parsley and avocados dressed simply with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Tender baby chard leaves can be added raw to any salad, or steamed very briefly, or added to soup just minutes before serving. Same with baby spinach leaves.

Whatever you find at your local farmers’ market or in your CSA box, try to keep your cooking to a minimum and enjoy the natural flavors of fresh food available from your region. Your health will be better for it!

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