Eat Local – For Health and Flavor

It’s the height of summer here in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire. The weather has been amazing and our vegetable garden is bursting at the seams!

Summer is so short. It’s important to remember to take time for yourself, your family and friends…to be in the moment, read a great book, go for a swim….RELAX. Your adrenals will thank you for it.

No matter where you are in the country, it’s also a great time to reap the nutritional benefits of eating local – for your health and the flavor. Read about some of the reasons below, but also try some of our favorite seasonal recipes.

Enjoy!

Warmly,

Ruth

It’s Summertime: Eat Local

The arrival of the warm summer weather is a great reminder to eat with the seasons. There is nothing better than going to the farmer’s market and bringing home a box of veggies filled with potential for what you can make with them.

One of the most important reasons to eat local and seasonal is the health benefits. Seasonal foods are picked at the peak of freshness and offer a high nutritional content. They are chock full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes and antioxidants that are important for optimal health.

Foods that are not local are harvested early to help the food endure long distance shipping. They don’t have the full complement of nutrients they might have had if allowed to ripen naturally.  Studies have shown that produce loses nutrients each day after it has been harvested and after three days it has lost 40 percent of its nutritional value.

Unfortunately, produce is often genetically engineered to facilitate packaging for these long trips.  Transporting fruit and veggies can also expose them to irradiation to kill germs or preservatives like wax to protect the food during the trip while it is under refrigeration.

Eating seasonally helps to support our bodies cleansing and healing abilities. During the spring and early summer, vegetables like dandelion greens, spring onions and garlic greens are great for detoxing your body after a long winter.

Eating local and in season is better for your wallet, too. It’s simple supply and demand. For example, think about the basil that is available to us during the winter months. We can spend as much as $4 or more on a puny container of limp and sometimes moldy basil from South America in January. Compare that to the fresh, vibrant, aromatic and over the top bunch you can get from a local farm stand or farmer’s market in the summer that costs $1 to $2 at most.

Not to mention, the financial support you provide to the farmer. With fewer than 1 million Americans listing farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. When you buy directly from a farmer you are reestablishing a connection between the grower and the eater.

Finally, local and seasonal food just hands down tastes better. Generally, what affects nutrients also affects flavor. Food that travels a long way from its origin loses its essence every step of the way. And when it is picked early before it is ripe, the food never gets a chance to develop its full flavor potential.

Just compare those flavorless pulpy tomatoes that are available in the grocery store throughout the late fall, winter and spring, to that warm fully ripe delicious tomato from your garden or the farmers market—there is a big difference. Food grown in your local community is usually picked within the last day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor.

So as you think about how to shift consistently to local and seasonal foods, here is a list of foods that are available region in the spring and early summer. It makes my mouth water for a great asparagus soup or fiddleheads sautéed in garlic and olive oil accompanied by an arugula salad with mushrooms, chives and radishes.

Asparagus
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Garlic greens
Lettuce
Arugula
Mushrooms
Parsnips
Peas-snap


Radishes
Rhubarb
Scallions
Spinach
Sprouts
Turnips
Strawberries
Chives
Dill

There are also a number of Greens you may not think of, but easy to grow and ready in just a few weeks:

Beet Greens
Bok Choi
Chard
Collard
Cress
Dandelion
Kale


Mizuna
Mustard Greens
Sorrel
Tat Soi
Turnip Greens

My garden is starting to sprout sugar snap peas and snow peas galore. I got them in a little late this year but can’t wait to add those snap peas to my Farro Salad with Peas, Asparagus  and Feta. The arugula which I love in the Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula salad is still going strong and I can’t wait until my Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are ripe. The best snack is to eat them right off the vine on a warm day. Simply amazing. But I also love a variety of cherry tomatoes in Roast Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Capers.

Recipes of the Month

Three more great recipes to take advantage of the season’s yield.

Farro Salad with Peas, Asparagus and Feta
Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
Roast Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Capers (for a cool evening)

Enjoy!