It's official: it's finally summer. It's a welcome time to cherish sand castles at the beach, hikes through the woods, cool drinks on the deck and, of course, fantastically fresh food.
I live in Michigan, and our state's agriculture truly shines now. Local restaurants are quick to advertise that they are serving Michigan-grown fruits and veggies. But why does it matter? While it may seem trendy to eat foods grown locally and in season, there are far more benefits to this practice than simply being on trend.
My Reasons to Eat Seasonal Foods
The first reason is flavor. When fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness, the taste cannot be beat. Have you ever bitten into a tomato fresh out of the garden? 'Nuff said! Plus, choosing local, seasonal produce can be an excellent way to introduce new flavors into your diet, especially when the price is right. And since just about everyone can use the added incentive and inspiration to eat more fruits and veggies, I say bring it on!
The second reason is price. When fruits and veggies are in season, they typically are available in abundance and the price drops. Instead of costing $1 each at the supermarket, cucumbers drop to five for $1! And we all know how expensive berries can be out of season, but if you buy in bulk over the summer you will save a bundle.
Get Cooking, Season by Season
Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate fresh produce into your own family meals.
You cannot visit a spring produce market without spotting the bright stems of rhubarb. While most people would toss this into a pie, I prefer to mix things up. I've used it in ketchup to add a little zing to my veggie burger, and in a salsa for pork tenderloin.
Another spring vegetable I love is the odd-looking kohlrabi. While I like to shred fresh kohlrabi into a tart slaw or enjoy the crisp crunch on its own, roasting truly brings out its richer flavor profile. If you are new to kohlrabi, I recommend roasting it at 450 degrees with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 30 minutes.
If you visit a farmers market between June and August you are sure to be greeted with a rainbow of options, including fresh green beans, strawberries, leafy greens, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, stone fruits, rich dark cherries and more.
When it comes to leafy greens, I have acquired the reputation for being a bit kale-centric. I have been known to tout the health benefits of kale and rave over its delicious flavor. One of my favorite summer recipes is strawberry-kale salad made with a lemon-poppy seed dressing. It's even been known to convert a few kale-haters!
Even as summer comes to a close, farm fresh produce is still in full swing. Look for pumpkins, winter squash, potatoes, preserves, honey, baked goods and breads. With beets at their prime, you will certainly need to invite these deeply hued veggies into your kitchen. Use them to add a beautiful shade of maroon to a beet and carrot slaw, or puree them into a pink hummus. Or, simply roast them in the oven and enjoy.
Roast, roast, roast. Or, as my husband says, "Find any excuse to turn the oven on so that I can huddle around it each time I open the door." In addition to warming up a wintry kitchen, roasting produce brings out the best flavors, particularly the sweet ones. I tend to toss whatever winter vegetables I have on hand with a bit of olive oil, rosemary and thyme, and roast them at 450 degrees. It works well with Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, rutabaga, onions and winter squash.
Whatever the season, let Mother Nature be your guide!