Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eating Local and In-Season all Year

So I admit that this time of year, I start to panic.  As fall begins and winter approaches I feel as though this is my last attempt to save the flavors of summer and fall gardens.  There is so much preparation to be done if a seasonal vegetarian wants to ensure the freezer is stocked with local produce.  Once the snow begins to fly, there are many vegetables that no longer will be offered.  For example, in season fruits and vegetables right now consist of tomatoes, peppers, peaches, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, watermelon, grapes, etc.   

Other vegetables are easily stored and offered despite the colder temperatures.  Squash, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic, for example are heartier and last longer without preserving. Unfortunately, the human diet requires balance and variety.  What can be done to ensure that unique benefits from most fruits and vegetables are obtainable despite lacking fresh availability?

The good news is that they can be canned or frozen during their peak and preserved until a later date.  Tomatoes can be juiced and cooked down for canning.  Other vegetables can be washed and steamed, trimmed and cut for canning or freezer storage.  Although this type of preparation can be time consuming, the benefits are amazing and well worth the effort when inches of snow blanket the ground where a lush green garden once provided colorful produce. 

It’s wonderful to walk into a grocery store and have the option of purchasing delicate fruits such as strawberries in the middle of winter. However, one has to ask themselves if the flavor and nutrient content are the same as those grown locally, picked during peak season and enjoyed within hours of harvest.  Could there be some back home in the freezer ready for a smoothie? How much better will a fresh berry taste when the season arrives again next year? 

Eating local is slowly gaining awareness.  There are many farmers markets that are offered year-round as well. Combining what the farmer can harvest and store, with what was canned or frozen at home during peak season, can make sustainable meals/snacks from nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables for long winter months.

Joyce Rode, MA


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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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