I'm no professional chef. The closest I've gotten to it is culinary school, and I've never set foot inside a restaurant kitchen. So why does that make me an expert? It doesn't. I'm just an extreme foodie who loves to learn and loves to enjoy simple, delicious food. If it sounds like something you can enjoy, come along for the ride. We can learn together and make it an experience none of us will ever forget!
With the ever-expanding year-round availability of fruits and vegetables, the idea of seasonality has become something of a novelty. There are fewer and fewer people who follow a seasonal diet because, let's face it, we're Americans...and we want what we want when we want it. Right?
It really is a shame. Though I, too, am guilty of not following a seasonal fruit and vegetable calendar, I have begun to work on a vegetable garden within the last few years, and as you've seen in a previous post it has been totally worth it. Summer vegetables have the ability to excite me more than bumping into Alton Brown in a supermarket (sorry, AB). I enthusiastically look forward to Spring. When the soil softens enough, and the evening weather doesn't freeze it back into ice-dom, the planting season can begin.
What I really enjoy about eating out of my own garden, besides the obvious convenience of having a grocery store in my back yard, is the flavors. I wonder how many people have really ever had a perfect tomato, instead of the watery pulp we purchase at the local mega-mart.
Of course, with every act of planting comes with it the act of maintenance, and as I said before: we're Americans. I get it, it's a lot of work! And I'm not knocking those that don't want to do it. I also know there are a lot of people who just don't have the back yard space to be able to plant a daisy much less a vegetable garden.
What are your options? I'm so glad you asked!
One way you can enjoy the tastes of the season is by following this seasonal produce guide. This produce calendar gives you the fruit/vegetable followed by the month(s) it is at its peak. This calendar also lists herbs and some little-known vegetable and fruit gems. These dates may vary from place to place, but generally, this is a good calendar to follow. As you can see, we're into lettuce, asparagus, beet and artichoke season so GO NUTS!
If you're looking to try something exciting, the newest, and by far the most interesting, food trend is a little thing called "Co-Op Growing" (or variations thereof). This allows people to purchase part of a farm's, or several farms', crop(s) for the week, and usually includes several different types of vegetables, fruits, greens and the like. Depending on the place, they may even deliver the goods straight to your door. But in most cases, they bring everyone's "order" to one location to be picked up. I put "order" in quotes because, depending on the co-op, they don't always allow you to pick what produce you receive, so it can get a little tricky trying to figure out what to do with everything. Most of the time, they'll let you know what's on the bill for the upcoming week.
Still with me? Good, cuz here's how they work: basically, you get a hold of the grower and ask to take part of their co-op. You pay in advance (most of the time), and they deliver it or you pick it up. Sometimes they'll do an auto-bill type of transaction so every week you can continue to get the harvest without having to remember to re-order. The co-ops that let you pick your vegetables are nice, but they're not available in some places so if you find one, jump on it! There are some of us that get excited about the roulette-style co-ops. You never really know what's coming, but this lets your creative side take charge. It kinda forces you to take a chance, and you may end up receiving something you never thought about trying.
Besides the fact that it's delicious, fun and as fresh as fresh can be, it's LOCAL! Which means you are doing Mother Earth the ultimate favor. The food travels fewer miles to get to your house, and therefore less gas and harmful emissions in our atmosphere. Win-win, I'd say!
So give some co-op agriculture a try. If you're not sure where to start looking, it's a good thing you came here because I'm a research kind of girl: