A is for Asparagus in April: 4 Reasons to Eat by the Seasons
Cooking seasonally is one topic I write about frequently because it is beneficial for so many reasons. I try to make it a priority in my kitchen because it is a fantastic way to celebrate where I live. My boys and I end up eating a wider range of fruits and vegetables, and it helps them understand the seasons as they change.
I am always looking to embrace seasonal ingredients. It becomes increasingly apparent how important that is when you are cooking on a daily basis.
All foods have a season and it’s nice to get excited about each changing of the seasons, simply for the new variety of fruits and vegetables that are available to us. Whenever spring starts, I’m always so thrilled to take a step out of the heavy comfort foods and into something fresher and brighter. With each season, you have a whole new ingredients list to use.
Once you get into the swing of eating seasonal food, it will become second nature to you after the first year or so, but why is it so important to do this? When you choose to eat seasonally, you are supporting local farmers, adding many new and different foods to your diet, saving money, and getting the best, healthiest food available.
I like to think seasonal cooking is something that many of us aspire to do more often, but sometimes we don’t know how to answer even the most basic question, “what’s in season?” Today it's so easy to transport food long distances that we take it for granted that we can eat fresh berries in January or have avocado toast every day. Yet many of us have no clue which fruits and veggies are actually in season where we live.
Eliminate the guesswork of "what's in season" by choosing produce grown in your region. By focusing on locally-grown food, you don't have to navigate seasonality — that just falls into place naturally. If the farmers in your area can't grow it, they won't sell it — eliminating the mystery for you.
Many cooks consider a handful of ingredients, like cucumbers, apples, and carrots, to be must-have staples regardless of whether they're in season or not. Will an out-of-season, shipped-across-the-country apple taste as juicy and sweet as one just-picked fresh from the tree? Of course not. But when it's all you've got, it's all you've got.
Ultimately knowing what’s in season, and eating to match that, is important. Here are 4 of the best reasons to eat by the seasons:
1. It's better for your health.
Foods that are grown and consumed during their appropriate seasons are more nutritionally dense.
2. It tastes better.
Have you ever noticed that tomatoes grown in your neighbor's summer garden taste much sweeter than the ones you buy at the supermarket? Naturally ripened fruits and vegetables grown and picked in season are typically full of flavor and nutrients.
3. It's better for the environment.
Sticking to local produce can be a great way to help discover what is in season near you. And this combination of seasonal plus local is better for the environment. Most of us give little thought to the effects of long-distance travel on not only the nutritional value of our food and the costs, but also the environmental impact, including fuel emissions. The fact is, more than half the fruit and almost one-third of the vegetables bought in the U.S. are imported.
Consider buying locally grown produce. This is a great way to eat with the seasons. Plus, these foods don't have to travel nearly as far, so the associated fuel emissions and transportation costs are minimal. Added bonus: Buying local helps support your local farmers.
4. It's cheaper.
When a fruit or veggie is in season, it's abundant and, not surprisingly, it's available at a lower price. For example, summer is berry season, so that's why strawberries and other berries are so cheap during the summer.
Meanwhile, if you're craving grapefruit in July, you'll probably pay twice as much as you would in December. Why? Grapefruit is in season during the winter, so the supply is higher, driving down the price. In fact, experts often say their number 1 tip for saving money on healthy food is to buy in-season produce.The bottom line is that eating with the seasons will save you money.
While April is really just the beginning of the spring growing season in Ohio, delicate vegetables like asparagus, spring lettuces, and baby greens like spinach start to make their way to market. Those first early strawberries start to show up in April in Ohio too. You should start to see these and other spring produce items at peak ripeness and at the lowest prices of the year. Take advantage of all the benefits and enjoy! Happy Spring cooking and eating from all of us at Bellisari’s!