5 easy steps to seasonal eating

Photo: Nick Saltmarsh, provenance.co


As consumers in a global economy, we’re used to buying and eating whatever we want, whenever we want it. Whether it’s June or December, we can walk into the grocery store and find asparagus and tomatoes, lamb and shellfish. No wonder we’re losing our sense of different foods being seasonal – raised, harvested, and at their peak of flavour at certain times of year.

This loss is part of our growing disconnection from food.  Fewer Canadians farm the land than ever before, and most what we eat is grown, processed, packaged and shipped, by a handful of multinational food companies, far from our communities and out of public view.

While we can’t expect to eat all- local or all-seasonal here in Ottawa, with its short growing season and long winters, we can become more aware of what we’re eating and the effect that our food choices have. The benefits of doing this, as I wrote in an earlier post, include enjoying better-tasting food, supporting the local economy and helping to build a lower-impact food system.

Here are five simple ways to eat more seasonally.

  1. Find out what’s in season when. (And don’t just think fruit and veg. Meat, poultry and eggs, fish  – all are at their best at different times of year.)
  2. Collect recipes for favourite foods so if you’re suddenly swamped with beans or zucchini from the garden or the CSA farm you belong to, nothing will go to waste because you have options for preparing it.
  3. Buy extra food when it’s in season and freeze or preserve it by canning, pickling, dehydrating or smoking.  Turn a bounty of fall tomatoes into juice, salsa, chutney, paste or ketchup. When cabbage is plentiful, make sauerkraut. If you’re new to food preservation, attend Just Food’s workshops or consult the many books (Put a Lid on It! and Putting Food By to name just a few) and online resources (such as Bernardin Canada or PickYourOwn.org) on the topic.
  4. Get the right equipment for storage or preservation. Invest in a standalone freezerbuy canning equipment, build a root cellar or use your basement to store fall and winter vegetables such as squash, potatoes and carrots.
  5. If you’re too busy for freezing and preserving, you can still make a big difference by purchasing local foods when they’re available instead of buying the same items from half-way around the world. 

What’s your favourite seasonal food? How do you like to prepare or preserve it?

Watch for the next Earthward post: it will be the first of a regular series of recipes from Ottawa chefs featuring local, seasonal ingredients.

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