Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Some Thoughts on Seasonal Eating

You've heard me talk about my attempts over the past 2 years to eat more in harmony with the seasons. I am not a purist or perfect in my endeavors at eating seasonal locally-grown foods. But, I do think awareness is very important. Eating seasonal foods means you are most likely getting fresher locally grown food. Eating non-seasonal food means that when you are eating strawberries and tomatoes in December that produce is being shipped from far far way. Getting your "heat-lovin" produce from another continent during the winter means you are getting a less fresh-lower quality product. It also means that for the produce to have a long enough shelf life to survive the extensive journey from far far away farm to your store it is a variety genetically engineered for endurance and not delicious natural taste.

I was thinking about all this during my grocery shopping yesterday. My grocery store is stocking an abundance of peaches, nectarines, plums, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, zucchini, cucumbers all alongside of the seasonal items like winter squash, brussels sprouts, etc. They were even featuring cantaloupe melons and strawberries in their own displays. I heard a father telling his daughter, "go pick out some good strawberries." And I'm thinking "good luck getting GOOD strawberries in March from Winco!" I later heard two women discussing how the asparagus didn't look very good but it was a good price. I wanted to tell them that asparagus is only in-season a brief window of time in the Spring in the Pacific Northwest. I, myself, am guilty of cooking asparagus every thanksgiving. It became a tradition and much loved dish at my Thanksgiving table every year. Once I realized asparagus is only in season in the spring I began omitting it from my Thanksgiving menu and moved it over to Easter in attempt to get more in harmony with the natural growing seasons.

Yes, sometimes I miss asparagus for Thanksgiving or cucumbers & tomatoes on my salad during the winter. I've learned to cook asparagus several times a week in a variety of recipes during it's brief harvest season. I have gotten very creative with my cooking. But, not eating my summer favorites for 6 months out of the year makes me really build desire for them. My anticipation makes me really appreciate the bounty of each season. When July rolls around and the farmer's market and my own garden begin producing tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, zucchini I am thrilled. I savour every morsel while the summer-autumn harvest lasts. As Autumn shifts to Winter I enjoy the frost-enhanced flavor of brussels sprouts and parsnips. A good source for locally grown seasonal eating is Edible Portland quarterly magazine. I always look forward to this magazine each quarter. It is packed with great recipes featuring seasonal food, local resources, and thought-provoking articles. It's free at local stores, published by Ecotrust and you can visit them online at: If you are outside the Portland area and interested in an edible your area magazine check out:

Last year I subscribed to organic produce home delivery from Pioneer Organics. The food was reasonably priced for organic & a lot (not all) of what they offer is locally grown in Oregon & Washington. Check them out at: The past year I've also become more interested in Community Supported Agriculture. With CSA you buy a annual share of a local farm. You pay in advance which assists farmers in their expenses. Then throughout the growing season you receive a share of the produce. CSA is awesome--you get locally grown fresh delicious organic food from a farmer you establish an ongoing relationship with!! To find a CSA near you visit: This year I'm joining a CSA and will feature more on that in an upcoming post.

Eating seasonally has also made me more aware of the traditional practices of "putting up" food for the winter. I am inspired by the almost forgotten traditions of canning, pickling, jam/jelly making of a few generations past. The past year I've attempted to learn more about canning and freezing foods. I've found these books helpful:

Ball Blue Book of Preserving-2006
Completely Revised & Updated Stocking Up, 3rd Edition-1986
Farm Journal's Freezing & Canning Cookbook, New Revised Edition-1976
Additionally you can contact the home canners' helpline at: 800-240-3340
or reach them on the web at:
Another great resource for Portland area residents is Portland Preserve: Check them out for lots of great tips on their website as well as local classes on food preservation.
A source of food preservation supplies (and lots of other cool cooking stuff) in Portland is Mirador Community Store:

So in closing friends, there is no reason to eat strawberries or melons in March. Strawberries are not meant to have a long shelf life, they are meant to be picked from your local farm or your own backyard and enjoyed that day. Once you have tasted local in-season strawberries there is no going back to the tough tasteless mild strawberries of commercial grocery stores. To find a farmer's market in the Portland area visit: I hope that my own process and reflections have encouraged you to think more about the WHAT and WHEN of the foods that you eat.

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