Season’s Eatings

 Posted by on February 24, 2009  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Feb 242009

For the last three years, I’ve attempted to grow asparagus, because it’s one of my husband’s favorite foods. Every year, the ferny plants bloom, but there are no spears. I have no idea why, but it’s incredibly frustrating. My husband and I love grilled asparagus with balsamic vinegar, but we HATE paying $4.99/lb for it, so we almost never eat it…..except in the spring.

In spring, asparagus is cheap. Apparently, spring came early this year, because I found large bundles of asparagus on sale at my local grocery store last week, for only $1.49 each. We’ve been eating and enjoying it regularly, because when the price goes back up, we won’t buy it.

We save a lot of money by eating seasonally, just as our ancestors did. When our garden is producing, we enjoy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet corn. In the winter, we eat our preserved garden surplus, along with winter vegetables like squash and sweet potatoes. When the garden surplus runs out, we buy mostly frozen vegetables, because they’re inexpensive, easy to prepare, and readily available. Because they’re flash frozen after harvesting, they’re typically more nutritious than the so-called “fresh” vegetables at the grocery store.

Truly fresh vegetables, such as those you purchase at a local farmer’s market, or pick out of your own garden, are ideally harvested at the peak of freshness, and if you eat them right away, they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals. Produce from the grocery store is a whole other story. In many cases, it has spent days or weeks in transit, before languishing even longer in the produce aisle. Over that time, much of the vitamin and mineral content is lost.

One of the best ways to eat healthy – and save money – is to know what’s in season, and shop accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, here is a handy reference chart of seasonal sales, for produce and other groceries:

January–citrus fruits
February–South American grapes, citrus fruits
March–corned beef and cabbage, South American grapes, citrus fruits
April–asparagus, artichokes
May–Mexican food products, asparagus, strawberries
June–stone fruit, local onions, strawberries, pop, beer, potato chips, charcoal, paper plates, marshmallows, ketchup
July–melon, California grapes, strawberries, corn, iceberg lettuce, bell peppers, barbeque stuff
August–same as July, plus cucumbers
September–apples, pears, corn, squash
October–apples, squash, potatoes, yams
November/December–turkey, pumpkin, canned milk, powdered and brown sugar, cranberries, chocolate chips, walnuts, cream cheese, baking supplies, citrus fruits, bananas, onions

Also, the National Resources Defense Council offers a “What’s Fresh Near You” search function, which allows you to enter your state and season, and find out what local produce is at the peak of freshness in your area.

Around here, it’s prime time for lettuce, spinach, and other greens. The kids will be thrilled.