Tips for Selecting Seasonal Produce
Many of us are now so accustomed to buying fruit and vegetables that have been air-freighted in from around the world that we are often unaware, or at best confused, about which foods are in season. As nice as it might seem to have our favorite fruit and vegetables available all year round, locally grown seasonal produce at its nutritional best is much tastier.
The convenience of modern supermarket shopping has meant that we now expect to be able to buy certain foods throughout the year, even when they are out of season. The flavor of such imported, out-of-season food is always inferior, and the impact of pollution and greenhouse gases created by transporting the produce from afar is damaging to the environment.
Food at its Peak
The bonus of buying seasonal food from local producers is that the fruits or vegetables have been allowed to ripen naturally. As a result, they contain more nutrients and generally have a better flavor than food that has been harvested early and ripened artificially. Most fruit and vegetables start to lose their flavor and nutritional value as soon as they've been picked, so buying local seasonal food guarantees you a shorter time from picking to eating. Out-of-season produce may have been picked six or more weeks before you buy it.
Enjoy the Variety
While some foods, such as bananas and mangoes, won't grow naturally in North America and Europe, and therefore can only be purchased as imported produce, there is a huge variety of fruits and vegetables that grow locally throughout the year. If you buy locally grown seasonal produce whenever you can, you'll end up with a more nutritious and tasty diet, while supporting local farmers.
Storing Home-Grown Winter Vegetables
Keep root vegetables in the ground until you need them, as long as the earth is well drained and cool (cover the rows with straw in a very severe winter). Alternatively, store potatoes in paper sacks and carrots in boxes of sand in a cool, dark, frost-free place. Onions, shallots, and garlic will keep all their freshness and potency if hung up in strings, but they need good air circulation to remain in the best condition. They can also be stored in wire baskets if it's difficult to hang them up. Frost-resistant greens such as cabbages, kale, and Brussels sprouts will neither continue to grow nor fade if left in the ground until you want to eat them. Pumpkins and squashes should be stored in a well-ventilated place.