Seasonal Eating

Chopped chard, red pepper and red onion

Chopped chard, red pepper and red onion

In the spring, in the midst of the craziness of May (one son’s college graduation in another state, and another son’s wedding 3 weeks later), I had this idea of blogging weekly on the topic of seasonal eating.  Then next year focusing on eating locally.  Then, if I’m really ambitious, in the third year moving to eating mostly what we produce on our place.  I can’t completely separate those because what we produce ourselves, as well as food that is grown locally, is also seasonal by default.  But not everyone grows a garden or raises chickens and I want this to help everyone think more about eating seasonally.  The pictures on here are from tonight’s dinner.  At the end I’ll tell you what it is.

Onion, pepper and chard stalks cooking

Onion, pepper and chard stalks cooking

With our 21st century American grocery stores, we don’t really know what seasonal eating even is.  Everything is available all the time, or most of the time.  There are a few exceptions.  One is sweet corn.  Because of shipping long distances it is available for an extended time, but for most of the year you cannot get fresh sweet corn.  You must buy it canned or frozen, but it’s still available.  A few exceptions are some tropical fruits.  I can’t always buy an avocado or kiwi.  Maybe those of you in much more highly populated areas can, but in our area we can’t.

Chopped chard leaves

Chopped chard leaves

Some of you may be thinking, “So what’s the big deal with eating seasonally?”  The main reason to do it is to save money.  Food in season is a lot cheaper.  I can generally buy fresh pineapples year-round but I can tell when it’s in season (wherever it’s grown) because the price goes down to around $1.50, and sometimes it’s as low as 99 cents.  When it’s not in season it’s as high as $3 or more, and they are also usually smaller out of season and bigger in season.  So when it’s in season it’s really a lot cheaper because you get a bigger pineapple for a lower price!  Another good example comes from my son’s wedding in May.  I was making their wedding cake.  The bride doesn’t like regular cake so I was trying to figure out what to make.  It wouldn’t be fair for the bride to not want to eat her own wedding cake!  Then I found out she likes cheesecake.  So I made cheesecake covered with strawberries.  I was concerned with not getting good berries – I needed them to be relatively close in size and shape, plus I needed them to be ripe and not spoil quickly.  But, fortunately, the wedding was May 25 – PRIME strawberry season!  BIG packages were at the store for very little money, and they were in excellent condition, perfectly ripe and pretty uniform in size.   If their wedding had been in October, it would have cost a lot more money and there would probably have been a lot more wasted berries due to spoilage.  Another reason is freshness and increased vitamins and minerals.  Food in season is more likely to be closer to local, which means it wasn’t picked unripe and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to the store.  Obviously pineapple isn’t a locally-grown food for and IL resident, though.  But the strawberries were grown closer to home.

Adding in cooked garbanzo beans and chard leaves

Adding in cooked garbanzo beans and chard leaves

So this is my challenge to myself – to do my best to buy food for my family that is in season.  That means that sometimes we won’t be eating something we might really want, even though it’s sitting on the store shelf.  We’ll just wait for the right season when it’s cheaper.  There’s always something in season.  I think it will be fun and help us get out of the routine of eating the same kinds of food all year.  Buy what’s in season and look up new recipes to use them.  I also want to use those times to buy a little more than usual and can or freeze the extras so we can eat it out of season – at the same price as in-season.  For example, blueberry season is upon us.  I’ll be buying a lot of them and freezing them for use in my smoothies over the course of the year.

Salt, spices and lemon

Salt, spices and lemon

 

My plan is to blog once a week about what we’ve eaten and highlight the seasonal items.  And in so doing, encourage you to start to think about eating seasonally yourself!  Tonight our seasonal item was Swiss chard.  Our garden got a late start and so far we’ve had lettuce and spinach.  Even the peas aren’t ready yet.  But kale and chard are doing well now.  A few days ago I took out a bag of garbanzo beans from the freezer.  I’d cooked a bunch of them a couple of months ago.  We used some that night and the rest were divided into several freezer bags to be used in other meals later.  So this is what I did…  I chopped up a red onion and a red pepper and the stalks of the chard.  Those were sauteed together in olive oil for 5-7 minutes.  Then I added the thawed beans and the chopped chard leaves.  I cooked that for about 5 more minutes until the leaves were wilted and the beans were warm.

The complete meal - Garbanzo chard saute with homemade whole wheat bread and butter

The complete meal – Garbanzo chard saute with homemade whole wheat bread and butter

Then I sprinkled on salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder.  Normally I’d have used fresh pressed garlic, but I ran out.  I mixed that up well over the heat, then removed the pan from the heat and squeezed the juice of one lemon over the whole thing.  I really enjoyed it!  And other than the complaint about the red pepper from my youngest child, everyone ate it.  They didn’t beg me to make it again, but I’m still working on getting them to learn to like a wider variety of foods :)