Eating Seasonal

Simple steps to eating in late spring and early summer

Warmer temperatures bring with them that familiar but distant ease to life — more daylight hours, fewer buttons to button and headwear to adorn before opening the front door and stepping casually into the sunshine. Spring comes around to remind us that being outside is a privilege and not a punishment. With winter well behind us, I have savored my last bites of hearty casseroles and sips of hot chocolate while walking listlessly into the long-awaited beginnings of spring eating. Eating seasonally requires a shift in thinking, a willingness to relinquish a little control in exchange for enjoying the true full flavors of food and a whole lot of indulgence. A quick walk through farmers markets this early in the season might seem more like a gardener’s dream than that of a cook, but even in the early days of spring the eager and creative eater can find fulfilling culinary delights, mixed among flats of heirloom tomato plants and basil seedlings. May and June in Omaha provide thick, sour stalks of rhubarb, earthy cuts of Jerusalem artichokes, spring onions, tender asparagus and eggs with yolks so golden they could be mistaken for edible sunshine. It seems even chickens get a boost from spring’s early bounty of bugs. Shifting your eating habits from year-round supermarket fare to seasonal opportunities might seem intimidating at first, but, trust me, you don’t need to be Alice Waters to come up with something simple and delicious. Eating seasonally is not about swearing off tropical fruit, coffee and chocolate for the rest of your life or never again stepping foot into a grocery store. Rather it’s about reconnecting to the true flavors of food, giving yourself the gift of eating when food is at its best, and, as if eating well wasn’t gift enough, you also have a positive impact on the local economy. “If each of the 791,863 occupied households in Nebraska committed to spending just $10 per week on locally grown foods we would keep over $411 million of our food dollars circulating in Nebraska, helping family farms and our local economy. And we’d have the added benefit of eating fresher, tastier, more healthful food,” said Billene Nemec, coordinator for Buy Fresh, Buy Local Nebraska. Reserving a couple of Abe Lincolns per week for local food, and following a few simple guidelines, is a great way to reconnect your food to its intended flavor. No. 1: Let the season dictate your menu. Most of us decide what we want to eat for the week and then head to the store to pick it up. We also tend to eat the same things week after week. Eating seasonally provides an opportunity to get creative and plan your menu based on what is available. No. 2: Start small. Think of one locally grown seasonal item to incorporate into one meal per day. As you become more creative and comfortable with letting the farmer’s market be your menu, add more items. For spring, start with local eggs anyway you want them for breakfast, for lunch enjoy a grilled turkey sandwich with rhubarb sauce, and for dinner roast some asparagus as a side to your Nebraska beef. No. 3: Ask for inspiration. Let’s be honest, not everyone wants to spend an afternoon in the kitchen developing recipes; sometimes you just want to eat. Ask your farmers for tips on preparation and even recipes for what they sell. You’ll find most will have suggestions and even printouts you can take with you. No. 4: Good food is worth the wait, and waiting is a great reason to be a glutton. By the time bold flavored, beautiful tomatoes with names like Box Car Willie and Mr. Stripey arrive, I’ve been waiting so long that I eat them with every meal — tomatoes with quark and toast for breakfast, tomato tarts for lunch and stuffed tomatoes for dinner. I can’t get enough of them, because I know when the tomatoes are gone for the season their distant grocery store relatives simply won’t cut it. I will simply have to wait until next season, but waiting is part of what makes their yearly arrival so great. Spring is about new beginnings and the promise of summer’s bounty. Use this year as a time to tiptoe or dive in head first to what the local community has to offer.

posted at 01:56 pm
on Thursday, June 09th, 2011

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