Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shopping For Seasonal Produce

Not so long ago, I was oblivious to the fact that it was better to buy tomatoes in the summer, that strawberries had multiple growing seasons, and that butternut squash is a winter squash. I certainly don't have a green thumb or any gardening knowledge whatsoever for that matter. I suppose as I perused the produce bins at the grocery store growing seasons never really occurred to me.   After all, I could still buy tomatoes in January. After gaining some knowledge in the kitchen, fast forward a few years and the question now is, do I want to buy those yucky, overpriced, January tomatoes? The answer I now know is, most likely not. The price increase aside, those January tomatoes are going to be hard, flavorless, mealy, and sometimes even colorless inside.

 Newbies headed to the store can be in for a daunting task. You may be left scratching your head if your not prepared. You must arm yourself with knowledge people! I'm going to give you some links to get started but I would suggest using some other tools you may have at your disposal. Try your grocery store's website or even better talk to someone who works in the produce department. They are there to help and they are usually quite happy to do so.

When researching, you should not only try and find out what grows in the particular season you are shopping in, but also take into consideration your location. What is farmed locally, what has to be shipped in? Where does it come from? It may have come from Australia because of our opposite seasons, but you may be paying extra for all that shipping. Wouldn't it be good to know if it's better to buy something that was flash frozen at peak season or to get it fresh?

Check out these links for more info:
Epicurious Peak Season Map-interactive area map
Wisebread-a small list that is a good starting point
Fruits & Veggies More Matters-extensive list of available seasonal produce
About.com- a seasonal list for the Pacific Northwest
Real Simple-what's in season for spring & how to choose good produce
Field To Plate- Links for seasonal produce in every state and/or region

Perhaps the greatest tool I utilized in an effort to educate myself in seasonal cooking came from New York Times bestselling author, Leanne Ely:
Saving Dinner-seasonal recipe menu mailers. Get a free sample menu mailer when you sign up for their newsletter. You will love it!
Saving Dinner Cookbooks-These books are set up by season. They come complete with meals for the week, shopping lists, nutrition facts, and side suggestions. My favorite book is the low-carb book. Many of the recipes in that book are my go to recipes for company. The many I have tried are all super fast and easy.


Red Couch Recipes said...

I also think that the best seasonal produce can also be the cheapest. What do you think? Joni

Sue said...

Great info., Lil. Local farmer's markets are always a good way to go:)

cakeologist said...

My red velvet cake turned out spectacular! (the decoration - not so much) Thank you for the advice.

I have an award for you on my Not About Cake blog.

Megan said...

Oh, the cookbooks set up by season would be SO neat!!

Jacqueline said...

Love local produce, always delicious. I do find that Roma tomatoes aren't too bad year round (better from my garden, but hey...)

Thanks for your comment on my yoga champion! She ended up taking 9th in the national. This was her first try. She said the top 4 had all competed for 4 years now. I don't care what I did, I could never do that. Amazing!