My name is James Albert Hall, and I am a Seasonal Eater. My addiction to eating seasonal foods, and only seasonal foods, has caused many problems in my life. I have been shunned by others for refusing to eat tomatoes in December, asparagus in September and oranges in July. In the winter, my six year old daughter does not understand why I will not buy her mangos during any other time of year than summer. I explain to her that mangos are only in season during the summer. She asks me how these mangos could be sitting in the bin if they are not in season. Who grew them and how if it is not mango season? I answer that they were probably grown in the South Pacific or somewhere in the southern hemisphere were it is summer time.
“Well then they are in season somewhere, which means they must taste good there, which means they probably taste good here. Mommy buys me mangos all year and they taste great, Dad!”
I clinch my jaw and refrain from saying anything unkind about Mommy’s food knowledge. After all, Daddy is the food expert and should never be questioned about his infinite culinary wisdom. I convince her to have citrus fruit, which is in season, and the topic remains closed until our next trip to the supermarket.
So why am I obsessed with seasonality? A number of reasons come to mind. Quality is one: a tomato in late August or mid September is at its peak and will taste far superior to a tomato that is out of season. Hothouse tomatoes tend to be mealier, drier, flavorless reproductions of their seasonal counterparts. Nutrition is another reason: fruits and vegetables that are in season tend to be grown outside, in rich soil with plenty of sunshine. They absorb the nutrients from the soil and pass them on to us. Price: an overabundance of ripe produce drives the prices down. Who can’t use a few extra bucks these days!?!
Another argument for eating seasonally is that it makes cooking easier. The old adage “If it grows together, it goes together” holds true here. Think about spring produce: asparagus, Fava beans, English peas, morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, ramps, and baby artichokes, to name a few favorites. Quickly sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, finished with a sprinkle of sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, chopped spring tarragon and squeeze of lemon, they go very well together. Autumn’s acorn squash or cranberries would not pair well with spring’s asparagus or peas. Shop seasonally and you eliminate a lot of the guess work.
Most seasonal ingredients are locally grown, so you support the community by buying them. Let your supermarket know that you will only buy locally grown items. Believe me, they will listen. (By local I mean within a state or two, not necessarily the next town over).The less distance the produce has to travel, the less pollution is created getting it to you, so the environment benefits as well. In the case of Farmer’s Markets, which I endorse supporting, you can ask the farmers about their crops, how they are grown and which ones are at their peak. Show a genuine interest in their livelyhood and there is a good chance they will hook you up with the best of what they have. Get to know them. Visit them each week and you will be rewarded done the line.
And for the record, I do eat tomatoes in December. I simply open the can.