For most of human existence, eating food that was seasonal and local wasn’t just a good thing; it was the only thing. People ate what grew nearby at any given time of year because that’s all that was available to them.
After World War II, when industrialization and transportation took off, agriculture changed, and we began to lose our connection to the source of our food. But despite our ability to ship anything to anywhere in the world, there is something to be said about staying in season.
Why buying in season still makes sense
The best reasons to buy vegetables in season are that they taste better and are less expensive.
Fruit that is being shipped far distances is picked before it is ripe to account for ripening off the vine in transit. Along the way, they still soften and change color, but without properly ripening, they don’t develop that same sweetness as a Jersey tomato in August or a Georgia peach in July.
Depending on where you live, it doesn’t always make sense — Northeasterners like myself would have to subsist on potatoes and onions all winter. But it does make loads of sense this time of year, when there are nearly limitless fruits and vegetables sweet and primed for picking.
It’s cheaper to buy seasonal produce
When you buy out of season, you are essentially paying someone to grow your food, and ship it across the country — or across many countries.
Eating what’s in season also lets you take advantage of the law of supply and demand: In June, strawberries are abundant, growing like weeds. With so many available, farmers need to move them before they go bad and set prices accordingly. Off season, we have to ship them in from California and that means we all compete for fewer strawberries, driving up prices.
What’s in season now
In the Northeast, fall might be the end of beach days and seersucker jackets, but it also gives way to juicy apples and Bosc pears (one of my favorites), beets, greens — like broccoli rabe and kale — and root vegetables that are great for roasting, to name a few.
Here’s a comprehensive list of what to buy now:
- Greens (kale, spinach, Swiss chard)
- Root vegetables (celery root, parsnips , turnips)
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, kabocha)
What should you do with all these? Here’s a simple autumn-inspired recipe (see final picture above):
Three-step roasted turnips and apples
(Note that you can substitute just about any root vegetable, and pears work great as a substitute for apples).
- 3 medium sized turnips
- 2 apples, any type (I like Gala)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the turnips and apples into cubes.
- Place in a baking pan, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, occasionally tossing. Remove when they reach a golden caramel. Enjoy! :)