Falling for Seasonal Foods
As summer is starting to wind down, the availability of fresh, local, and seasonal produce is not. The upcoming fall months bring more than just cold weather and the change of the leaves, they also bring a variety of nutritious produce with them. It is no secret that we have access to strawberries all year round, but what are the benefits of eating them while in season? Seasonal produce is often tastier and fresher than food that is consumed out of season. When produce is harvested from local farms while in season, there is less time from the field to the consumer which allows for the crop to ripen longer on its parent plant. When a crop is able to ripen longer on the parent plant, it may contain more nutrients than one that is harvested too early. Purchasing from a farmers market gives you the benefit of talking with the farmer, learning how to pick out a ripe item, and knowing what to expect from it instead of guessing if the item is ripe when buying at the grocery store. Eating more seasonal foods can also make it easier to support the local farmers.
Enjoying seasonal produce gives you something to look forward to and makes it easier to increase the number of fruits and vegetables on our plates. For some, it can be exciting waiting for the watermelon coming in late summer, then as ripe watermelons get harder to find there will be many different varieties of apples and pears available. Creating meals with produce that is in season ensures you will have a wide variety of nutrients to keep you healthy. Late summer and early fall bring a wide variety of fruits including cantaloupe, watermelon, pears, pomegranate, apples, grapes, kiwi. Vegetables to enjoy in the upcoming months include green beans, egg plant, corn, cauliflower, butternut squash, bell pepper, acorn squash, brussel sprouts, summer squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, mushrooms, lettuce, and okra.
A delicious way to prepare fall vegetables is to bring out the sweetness in them by roasting on a sheet pan. Adding fruit can also enhance the flavors. Diced sweet potatoes can be roasted with apples and topped with dried cranberries for a nutritious side dish. Apples can also be roasted with brussel sprouts for a sweet and savory side. Hardy vegetables like green beans, bell pepper, cauliflower, kale and butternut squash hold up nicely in a soup. Many vegetables can take on different flavor profiles. Keep it interesting by getting inspiration from different cultures and trying Mediterranean, Italian, Spanish, or Indian flavors.
Whether you plan to hang on to your favorite summer recipes for a while longer or you are ready to dive into the tastes of fall, be sure to enjoy a fruit or vegetable with every meal! Get outside of your comfort zone this season to try cooking a new fruit or vegetable. To learn more about seasonal produce in your area go to seasonalfoodguide.org
Sources: cooksmarts.com / seasonalfoodguide.org / todaysdietitian.com