If you’ve ever traveled to France, a mega-food capital of the world, you might notice something at the restaurants: When asparagus is in season, you will see dishes with asparagus on all of the menus in perhaps four or five main courses and in some of the appetizers. In the fall, you’ll see the root vegetables as well as the squashes being featured in soups and stews and as an accompaniment to the main dishes. People in other countries eat seasonally not only because those in-season offerings are the way their culture dictates, it’s because it is the freshest and tastes the best at that time of year.
I was in Virginia doing a presentation on the Chop concept for Phoenix Landing and my hosts for the weekend took me to a farmer’s market, where I found a grower’s stand selling organic apples from their local orchard. I purchased four of them and packed them away in my suitcase to take home. I shared them with my friend, Bill. We both took a bite and absolutely swooned! They were the crunchiest, most delicious apples I ever had in my life. They were sweet, tart and the most “apple-y” tasting apples ever. Why? Well, they were fresh for one thing. They really hadn’t been shipped anywhere other than a two-hour flight home stored in a paper bag, nestled in my suitcase and wrapped in my clothing. They hadn’t spent a week on a truck and another week or so being distributed to a grocery store. They were probably two days from being picked to getting eaten and they tasted like it. Those apples were one of the most memorable things I’ve ever eaten.
Fresh food always seems to taste better. And research indicates that foods in season are better for you. It simply makes sense that the minute you harvest something, the nutrition would tend to deteriorate.
But the benefits aren’t just for you and your flock. Eating seasonally and feeding your birds seasonal foods also benefits your bank account.
When I was a kid growing up in Illinois, we had a lot of farms out west of Chicago. The primary crops in the area were field corn, sweet corn and soybeans. In late summer, you could go out to some of these farms and the farmers would sell you 13 of the biggest ears of corn you’ve ever seen for a dollar. And it was the best corn you’ve ever eaten. Suffice it to say, for about a month or so, I ate corn at dinner every night. It was grown within miles of the house; it had just been picked, so this corn hadn’t been shipped anywhere. It went from the field to the table sometimes in as little as a day. And the quality of that corn was in its taste. Talk about fresh!
Add to the fact that it was the least expensive thing on the plate made it an even sweeter deal.
But there is more to this “eating seasonally” thing than just taste.
Seasonal eating makes sense. When spring comes, the leafy greens and colorful vegetables appear just in time to appeal to you after a long winter of the root vegetables. It’s a nice break for your palate when you’ve spent time in the kitchen with root vegetables and the starchy things that were available to you when it was cold and nothing was growing. Conversely, during the winter, those root vegetables keep for a long time. They are the earthy vegetables with a stick-to-your-ribs kind of foods that work well in warm soups, stew and casseroles; the kind of things you want to eat during bone-chilling days.
When spring comes, you want something refreshing and cool to go with the warm weather. The leafy greens and delicate spring vegetable are perfect for this time of year.
This is the cycle of nature and we would do well by following what it dictates.
If you think about it, birds in the wild have no choice but to eat in season because that is what is available to them.