We talk a lot about in-season cooking. On your plate, that means all kinds of locally sourced tomatoes in the summer and heaps of kabocha or hubbard squash in the winter.
But while eating seasonally can sounds incredible in July, just as the first Sun Golds hit the market and the taste of a tomato banishes all memory of snow and ice, by September, the “eat seasonal” mantra can dwindle into a whine: “More tomatoes?” We get it: you’re ready for that squash. But come March, we’ve got a feeling tomatoes will be on your mind again.
So why not even things out, eat a couple tomatoes in February and some squash in August? We’ve got a handful of reasons for embracing the cycles of plenty of scarcity, and we hope they’re good enough to convince you to gorge on tomatoes for another week or two before they disappear til next year.
In a simple application of supply-and-demand, in-season produce tends to cost less than out-of-season produce, which is obviously rarer in the off-season. Since January raspberries have to be brought in from elsewhere, when you pay for a pint, you’re also laying out dollars for transportation and potential spoilage. When you’re trying to avoid over-spending at the market, always look up what’s in season before you go.
It tastes better.
Remember that January raspberry? If you could taste it side by side with the Northeast’s ripe raspberry during its fleeting season, you would be awed by the difference. The in-season raspberry tastes richer, both sweeter and more sour simultaneously. Same goes for apples, which are crunchier in October than in May, and even seemingly boring new potatoes, which are lighter before they’re stored for the winter. Depending on where you live, you may still want to satisfy your winter Vitamin C craving with fruit flown in from warmer climates, and that’s okay. But don’t forget to stop and smell the in-season tomatoes, too (really! summer tomatoes truly possess the scent of summer).
You can experiment.
Because of the economy and tastiness of in-season produce, it’s a great “guinea pig” for when you’re looking to try new techniques or dishes in the kitchen. For example, after you go apple picking is the best time ever to try baking, frittering, pie-ing, cake-ing, and sauce-ing all the apples in creation.
You can get to know your region.
And your community. And your environment. Eating seasonally will put you in touch with producers, makers, and eaters in your community. Whether you ask your waitress at the farm-to-table restaurant, “where’s this beet from?” or head to the farmers’ market to chat up the vendors, making a point of eating seasonally will open you up to the delight of your landscape.
You can satisfy cravings.
While, yes, you might get a strong desire for berries during the dark days of December, looking to what’s in season can help you fulfill all your culinary desires. Even though we’ve got climate-controlled houses and cars, our bodies are still in touch with our natural surroundings. That means a hearty plate of mashed sweet potatoes might actually make you more satisfied than the berry you think you crave! Amazing, huh?
Save it for later–but do it yourself.
One of the most fun and useful kitchen DIY projects is preserving in-season produce to enjoy during scarcer months. This means blueberry jam instead of blueberries, sauerkraut instead of cabbage, and pickles instead of crispy cucumbers. There’s a serious old-fashioned pleasure in putting food by, plus making sauce is a good way to relieve your I’m-sick-of-all-these-tomatoes guilt. Watch our video on how to make pickles here.