During the summer months fresh produce is on every-other street corner. However in the heart of winter, living on a diet of local produce provides some flavors to be desired. In the summer months we indulge on sweet fruits and plentiful vegetables. We enjoy a different palate, the nutrition content of which contrasts winter produce. Before the days of transatlantic produce shipment, winter meant meat and roots.
Even with the temptations of fully-stocked grocery stores, local produce is still accessible in winter months. This guide can serve as your initiation to the Locavore-Clan!.
Reasons to Eat Locally:
Many markets stock produce that has been grown indoors or across the world. This means that more preservatives are used to maintain freshness.
Most bananas, for example, are harvested while still very green. They are coated with a wax to minimalize ethanol release and therefore postpone ripening. When the produce reaches the destination, the fruit has ripened to a more yellow-green and are sold in a more aesthetically pleasing form.
It’s the same as leaving produce out until it “ripens”. The nutrient content alters as the enzymes in the produce breakdown and alter the makeup.
To continue with the banana example, bananas oxidize and become sweeter as the carbohydrate content changes. The nutrient content change is significant health-wise, so eating fruit that has “ripened” during transportation is better than not eating fruit at all in the winter.
Learn the Seasonal Produce:
Fresh, local produce tends to have much richer flavors. A dry peach shipped from across the world, in the middle of November can’t compare to biting into a sweet-juicy peach in the peak of the season. Enjoy the true flavor potential of produce by eating with the seasons.
Green veggies are not only nutrient dense; they are also resilient to the most bone-shaking of frosts. Winter produce local to colder regions include more fibrous and hearty varieties.
Look for what is available at your local winter farmer’s market. If there are no local markets, large grocery markets list sourcing of produce.
New-England winter produce includes: pumpkin, cranberries and Brussels sprouts for example.
Root for Roots:
Root vegetables such as parsnips, beets, carrots and potatoes naturally preserve longer and survive well in cold weather. If your winter farmer’s market sells a local vegetable that you don’t recognize, ask for recipe ideas.
Canning, pickling, fermenting… Oh my!
Preserving produce is a great way to extend produce into winter months. Prepare for winter months by making freezer recipes (tomato sauce, pesto, cranberry sauce). Many markets and farms sell preserved goods in winter months. Freezing produce as-is or storing in a cool, dry place (especially root veggies) can extend shelf-life for months more.
Join a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture serves as a year-round commitment to a local farm. You may find your cupboards full of vegetables you wouldn’t otherwise opt for, but the quality will be better than produce that has seen more travel in a week than most see in a year. Preserve surplus vegetables received in summer months and enjoy in the winter, as the share is less.
Support your neighbors by continuing to eat local year-round!