Local Harvest in the Bread Basket

I sometimes forget how lucky I am to be living in what is known as the "bread basket"–a 400-mile stretch in California that grows nearly one quarter of the country's produce. Having this much fresh, local produce at my disposal is a dietitian's–and a foodie's–dream. Almost every day of the week I can find a farmer's market or a roadside stand supplying fresh berries, corn, almonds, olive oil and more.

Moving here almost five years ago from the East Coast was both a culture and food shock. Sure, I had heard about the local food movement making great gains in popularity, but I hadn't really thought about how if affected my personal food choices. In the first months of moving to Sacramento, near the top of the Central Valley, I was blown away by the array of fresh products and the emphasis on local produce. Yes, there are the environmental and financial benefits to eating food from the local market. But ultimately, taste is what blew me away. Whether it's fresh tomatoes, summer peaches, or corn on the cob, when produce is picked ripe and eaten at its peak, it's better than anything you could purchase at the grocery store. This delicious finding is what motivated me to eat more with the seasons.

Eating with the seasons has become my personal challenge. By purchasing local foods in-season, you reduce expensive shipping costs while minimizing the food's environmental impact. Additionally, this eating plan results in stronger support of local agriculture as you're providing direct payment to farmers.  Furthermore, eating with the seasons enables you to expand your palate by sampling new produce as it comes into season. With our country's large, commercialized food industry, the novelty of seasonal menu rotation has been lost. While I'm tempted to grab supermarket tomatoes in January for my salad, I intentionally resist the urge to include vegetables and fruits that are being grown outside their natural season. If you are interested in trying this challenge yourself, head to LocalHarvest.org to search for local farmers markets and/or community supported agriculture groups (CSAs).

While I have enjoyed my fair share of summer items–including corn, tomatoes, eggplant, basil and peppers–I am ready to bring fall produce into my recipes. Kale, beets, squash and pumpkin are just some of the items that I am excited to rotate into my diet. Kale, the newest hip vegetable, is one of the shining stars of the season and allows typical summer salads to become winter staples. While there are many ways to enjoy Kale, I prefer it in this Almond Salad. Kale is a great source of flavanoids (a powerful form of antioxidants), vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and fiber.


Almond Salad

Recipe by Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD

Ingredients
1 bunch kale
¾ cup raw almond butter
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 two-inch piece ginger
1 orange
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic

Directions

  1. In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except kale. Blend until smooth.
  2. Tear the kale with your hands into bite size pieces. Add the dressing to the kale and massage until dressing is covered over all the kale.
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Alexandra Caspero
Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD, CLT, is a registered dietitian and nutrition expert with a passion for health and wellness. Alex is a nationally recognized nutritionist and appears regularly on TV, print and social media. She was most recently featured in Runner's World, Men's Health, Fitness, Shape Magazine & Vogue. As the campus dietitian, director of wellness and adjunct instructor at University of the Pacific, Alex teaches what she preaches. Through innovative programs and services, Alex inspires students to become their healthiest selves. Her blog, DelishKnowledge, focuses on making whole-food eating deliciously simple. Alex also dishes out delicious tips to her thousands of social media followers.


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