For most of us, eating seasonally is a foreign concept. Many people don't even know that foods have a season, let alone what foods are in season at any given time of year. In the U.S., we enjoy practically unlimited access to any food at any time of the year. Tomatoes in December are nice, but not without consequences. Flavor suffers, nutrient levels decline, and environmental impact soars with each mile a food must travel to reach its ultimate destination.|
Local food, on the other hand, is seasonal and fresh! Boasting a host of benefits, including better flavor, more nutrients, and less environmental burden, it's usually picked just hours or days before you buy it (while standard supermarket produce can weather many days or even weeks in transport). It’s also healthier for the environment because the food has traveled a shorter distance, meaning fewer fossil fuels are used in its transport from the farm to your table.
Possibly the best benefit though, is that seasonal food is always interesting, as each season brings a new crop of foods that you haven't had for an entire year. Before you've had a chance to tire of its bounty, the season changes to bring new, flavorful foods to add to your pantry.
But eating locally in February? Can it be done? Absolutely! Surprisingly, there are a number of foods that make winter their season, and if you stock up on these basics, cooking satisfying, fresh, and wholesome meals in the dead of winter will be a breeze. In any other season, this would be as simple as making a trip to your local farmer’s market to stock up on the essentials. But many farmers’ markets close down for the winter. In this season of scarcity, you’ll probably need to call around to find a local farm that sells produce throughout the cold months. Check out www.FoodRoutes.org for a list of farms near you.
Once you find a source and make over your pantry for winter, all that’s left is stirring and savoring. Availability will vary from region to region, but here's a general list of foods that make winter their season, along with tips on how to incorporate these ingredients into your meals.