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Improve Health and Stretch Food Budget with Seasonal Eating

Today’s economy is not making it easy to keep your grocery shopping within budget AND make healthy meals. 


There are lots of coupons for boxed, canned, and jarred foods, but not so many for fresh products.


You can find deals on produce in the big stores.  However, those sales are often for whatever the store has done a buy-in on.  “Buy-in” is retail speak for “got a deal to buy a lot of.” 


Those buy-ins are for foods that have been stored in quantity.  There is nothing wrong with them.  They just aren’t at their peak of freshness.


As the high prices drag on, there is more call for returning to how people ate before planes, trains, and automobiles started shipping food all over the place.  It’s called seasonal eating.


Seasonal Eating and Health Benefits


Seasonal eating is when you purchase foods that are available where you live at their harvest time to eat and store for later. 


According to Chef Alice Waters, food activist and founder of Edible Schoolyard Project, “Food is a living thing.  So, you really have to know that after it’s picked, it’s always changing everyday”.


Once produce is picked, it begins a process of its nutrients breaking down, losing value the longer it sits unconsumed.   


Produce that must be transported long-distance is picked before it is ripe, not gaining all the benefits possible. Then, while it sits through being shipped, it loses more of its nutrients.


Before it arrives at its destination for purchasing, it is artificially ripened.  It looks like the fruit or vegetable you mean to buy, but it often doesn’t taste as good as it could.  And it does not pack the punch it might have had at the peak of freshness.


Seasonal eating allows produce to stay on the plant until its natural harvest time, gaining the most nutrients possible.


Seasonal eating additionally allows you to get what is most important to your health in that season.  For example, the summer season is ripe with hydrating fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumber.


Seasonal Eating and Savings Benefits


Fruits and vegetables that are purchased in-season are usually less expensive, so long as they have not been shipped long-distance.  A great reason to buy what is locally available.


Seasonal produce is also available in abundance.  The rules of supply and demand are to the benefit of the consumer, as the producer has a lot of that fresh product and wants to sell it before it goes bad.


Where to Shop When Eating Seasonally


A great way to shop for seasonal produce is at local farms, direct from the source.  You can also go to a local farmers’ market, where you will have the advantage of multiple local farms in one place.


The New Jersey State Agricultural Department established the Jersey Fresh Program in 1984.  Their logo ensures you that your produce was grown in New Jersey. 


The Jersey Fresh program will make it easier to find locally grown products at farmers’ markets and in the bigger market chains, including Foodtown, ShopRite, Wegman’s, and Stop and Shop, to name a few.  Click on Retail Partners to find participating grocers near you.


New Jersey is not the only state to have a program.  Click on Choices Magazine for their article that has a list of each state’s program to find the one where you live.  (The list will be foun,d at the end of the article the link takes you to).


What’s in Season Now


Every region has a different growing season.  You can find what’s in season to eat where you live through different search engines and apps.  I found an easy-to-use online guide at Seasonal Food Guide.  You can go to their website or download their free app


You can use Seasonal Food Guide to get in the know, no matter where you are.  Choose to search by state, month, and/or specific produce.  It is great for learning about your area as well as the freshest foods to eat when you are traveling.


In February, you might be inclined to think there is nothing in season in New Jersey, but there is.  Right now, you can find kale, horseradish, and sprouts in abundance.


Benefits of Kale, Horseradish and Sprouts


Kale:  Kale is a dark green leafy vegetable.  It is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes cabbage and broccoli. 


Kale is described as having a nutty, earthy flavor.  It is incredibly versatile as it can be boiled, braised, steamed, microwaved, and stir-fried. 


I like to add it to dishes by chopping it fine and adding it to soups, stews, and omelets at this time of year.


Kale is loaded with vitamin C, selenium and beta-carotene which can boost the immune system.  It is also rich in Vitamin K, which helps blood clotting and wound healing.  (Those on anticoagulant medications should consult their doctor before adding kale to their diet).


Horseradish:  Horseradish is a pungent root vegetable with a little bite to it.  It is grated and often used as a condiment. 


As a member of the mustard and wasabi family, horseradish is a nutritional powerhouse with calcium, fiber, folate, manganese, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C, and Zinc.  Phew!  That’s a lot for one small root.


A study has shown that the isothiocyanates in horseradish have a natural antibiotic and antimicrobial benefit.   This means it can kill some bacteria and microorganisms that make people sick.


A little goes a long way with horseradish as it has a strong flavor.  It can be added to any dish and is especially easy to add to sauces.  I add it to my potato salad for a little zippier flavor.


Sprouts:  Sprouts are young greens that are a few days old.  You can get bean, pea, vegetable, nut, seed, and grain sprouts at the local farmers market and grocery stores.  You can even grow your own.


Sprouts are chock full of nutrients.  Which ones are determined by the type of sprouts you are using.


Across the boards, sprouts are high in fiber and enzymes that help to break down food.  That means they are a “happy gut” food.  (Click here for more information on making your gut happy).


Sprouts are quite versatile and easy to add to any meal.  They can be eaten raw, terrific for salads and sandwiches.  Cooking sprouts slightly makes it easier for your body to get at all the good nutrients in them as they will be easier to digest.


Just like kale, I add sprouts to cooked meals like soups and stews.  I mix them in at the end of cooking, so they just get heated through.  They add flavor and of course, a good extra boost of nutrition.


Reap the Benefits of Seasonal Eating All Year Long


Growing seasons are different throughout the world.  A great way to make the benefits of your local growing season stretch throughout the year is found through options like canning and freezing. 


For information on freezing and canning produce just like grandma used to do, click here for an article by Lynn Lampman, Lucille’s Garden Volunteer.


To get started, enjoy what’s in season right away while buying extra to put away for winter use.  For example, I buy blueberries during harvest time and freeze them to use later in the year.


If you are just getting started in a slower growing time, do not despair.  Take advantage of what is available where you are now.  As more produce becomes available through the year, you will be able to do even more.


Recipe Time


I love collecting recipes that make use of what is in season.  Remember that kale, horseradish, and sprouts are in season in New Jersey right now. 


Click on this Colcannon recipe (Irish mashed potatoes) from Katie Webster. This tasty dish includes kale and horseradish. 


If you want to get the benefit of the sprouts too, just mix some in at the end of cooking the colcannon, and you’ve gotten all three.


We’d love to add some new recipes to our list for February seasonal eating.  Look up what’s in season near you and then share in the comments your favorite recipe that includes them.


Note:  Neither the author or The Latest View have been compensated by any company or program noted in this article.



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