Farmer’s markets are in full swing, fruits and vegetables are abundant, and food takes on a whole new taste, texture, smell and color… when else besides spring does it seem natural to eat a soup as astonishingly green as the one pictured above? (compliments to Heidi at 101cookbooks.com)
Spring is a time for renewal and transformation as we move out the cold, wet, dark winter months of hibernation. This could mean shedding some winter weight by eating lighter foods and exercising more. It could also mean, ahem, spring cleaning- maybe it’s time to finally clean out your closet or get rid of those three-year-old canned goods in the pantry? Now is the time! Spring cooking is characterized by lighter cooking methods and more fresh foods, which help us harmonize with the energy of the season.
Why eat seasonally?
There are lots of benefits to eating seasonally, but here are the biggies:
It’s pleasing to the palate. Pick a ripe cherry tomato off the vine and pop it in your mouth; prepare yourself lunch using handfuls of greens picked fresh from the garden. Notice how food tastes better when it’s eaten close to harvest? It’s true, and it makes sense: when food is transported over long distances, it must be picked before it’s fully ripe in anticipation of it’s journey. These fruits and vegetables are refrigerated and don’t ripen in the same way as fresh produce does, thus effecting their taste and texture. I stopped eating mealy, flavorless tomatoes in the middle of winter for precisely this reason.
It’s more nutritous. Vitamins and minerals are more abundant when food is ripe and fresh. How clever of nature to make the most nutritious and readily available food the best tasting! Even after a few-day journey from farm to market, some of the vital nutrients are already lost, so think of what happens when food is shipped across oceans. Traditional macrobiotic principles suggest that our bodies are built to be in sync with our climate and eat the foods each season has to offer.
It’s local. More of your money is going directly to farmers instead of transportation cost, fuel prices, processing etc. Also, you can be more sure of the safety of your food if you know where it comes from. For example, get to know the farmers at your local farmers market and learn about their growing practices. I’ve found that even if they aren’t USDA certified organic (not always cost effective for small farms), they don’t tend to use chemicals or pesticides as much.
It’s cheaper. Supply and demand, it’s as simple as that. When something is plentiful, the price drops. Plus, you can bargain at farm stands but not at Safeway.
Spring fruits and vegetables
You know anything at your local farmer’s market is in season (and local), but look for these fruits and vegetables at your regular grocery store as well in order to take advantage of the benefits mentioned above.
Fruits: cherries, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, meyer lemons, apricots, peaches, plums
Veggies: leafy greens (i.e. kale, chard, mustard greens), artichokes, asparagus, avocado, fava beans, green onions, peas, radishes
Spring cooking is characterized by lighter cooking methods (steaming, lightly sautéing, or eating raw) and less seasonings. In my kitchen this equates to lots of salads!
Easy spring salad
Try this simple formula:
1) cooked whole grain, cooled (e.g. quinoa, wild rice, or israeli couscous)
2) lightly steamed greens, cooled (e.g. kale, asparagus, brocoli florets)
3) avocado, cubed
4) fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed garlic
5) optional: feta, toasted nuts (e.g. sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts)
6) combine 1) through 5) in a bowl and toss together