My daughters and I picked strawberries last week. At age 6 and 10 they still scream in excitement over finding a big ripe strawberry. We leave with stained pants and red hands, but don't mind. We freeze about 45lbs for the winter. I'll use the berries for desserts, smoothies, pancake toppings and muffins. To me, strawberry season marks the beginning of abundant fresh local food. By now, the farmers at the market offer a variety of choices and gardens are plentiful. In the spring, fresh food slowly creeps into our diets. Wild leeks, rhubarb, greens and asparagus simmer on the stove. As summer comes, this slow pace is transposed with packed refrigerators, endless salads and a countryside dotted with roadside stands.
When you choose regional foods, your menus will inevitably be determined by what is in season. In the grocery store, there are no seasons. You won't see much difference in your menus if you only shop there throughout the year. The fun of a seasonal kitchen is how meals change through spring, summer, fall and winter. In May I know we will eat pounds of asparagus while in August it will be tomatoes all around. Many people plan meals and then shop for ingredients. In a kitchen focused on local food, the cook will shop for ingredients and THEN plan meals. I find I use my cookbooks even more in the summer. I'll suggest good cookbooks in the next blog. There are many where you can look up a single food, such as spinach, and find a host of recipes.
My CSA box last Friday (which I pick up at the Canton Farmers' Market) contained: spinach, broccoli, strawberries, cauliflower, Asian greens, mixed lettuce greens, dill and green onions. While my garden gave us garlic tops, lettuce, cilantro, asparagus, basil and more. Guess what we are having for dinner this week? Meals containing those vegetables such as stir-fry with greens, sauteed spinach and local grass fed beef, strawberry shortcake and cauliflower soup. Cooking with local food is a way to make meals exciting, avoid routine recipes and offer great health to your family.
None of this has to be time consuming or extremely physical. Not up for picking strawberries? There are a host of roadside stands selling them right now. Only interested in veggies as a side dish? We are lucky now to have farmers selling pork, beef and chicken. The options are endless. I urge you to stop at roadside stands, markets, and grocery stores which sell local food. You won't be disappointed.