Driving down the winding forest road, mountains looming on all sides, clouds clinging to their peaks while our car glides past towards the small stand on the side of the road. My anticipation of this treat is all I’m aware of. I hand over my coins, a small price to pay for the sweetness about to be savored. I choose one of them, a perfect red jewel, and bring it to my lips. I attempt to bite into it, but it’s elusive form melts into a blissful juiciness of flavor – sweet, tangy, refreshing and velvety. What is this little packet with flavor beyond its size? A Norwegian strawberry! More specifically, a Norwegian strawberry in season.
Moving to Norway in summer has opened my eyes – well, more my mouth – to the amazing flavor of food in season. Here it’s been berries galore – we bought three buckets of raspberries from the town next door. After eating our fill we made jam of the rest. The strawberries are to die for, as described above. We’ve had rhubarb soup from my husband’s grandmother’s garden, and red currants have been a new addition to my fruit palette.
As fall rolls in, we see the apples and pears on neighboring trees growing by the day, and I can’t wait to taste some of those fresh from the source. Amazing flavor is one of my favorite reasons for eating seasonally. For those who aren’t big into veggies, a great way to start liking them more is getting them as fresh as possible. Find a friend with a garden and taste a tomato right off the vine. Or get to your local farmer’s market and ask for what’s freshest.
The difference is startling between veggies and fruit as they’re meant to be and those that travel miles and days in a truck with ethylene gas sprayed to ripen them on the way. A bland, flavorless lump with just a hint of what it used to be does not inspire anyone to eat more vegetables. In addition, a lot of nutrients are lost when food is taken from the vine or tree and left sitting out for days or weeks in the store, then maybe another week in your fridge or on your counter.
There’s something to be said about eating with the seasons based on where you live. Ever notice how summer fruits and vegetables are so satisfying when eaten on a hot sunny day? They are naturally light and contain a lot of water to help hydrate you during the months you’re likely to sweat the most. Think watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, juicy peaches, berries, cherries, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash and spinach.
As autumn and cooler weather start to roll in, more of the starchy vegetables and higher calorie nuts come into season. Think potatoes, yams, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnips, brussels sprouts, apples, pears, almonds and pecans. These foods tend to warm us when we are need of more warmth.
Of course, where in the world you live will dictate what’s in season in your area. In tropical climates, fruits with high water content are available most of the year. Many cold climates won’t find much growing in the winter months, which led to practices like canning and preserving in days when global markets were non-existent. We have the benefit of having all produce available to us most of the year now, from all over the globe. However, the price paid is often dampened flavor and less nutrition in foods not in season in your area. Not to mention these are often more expensive due to the cost of getting those foods to you.
I don’t suggest that you only eat what’s in season in your area, but I think most of us could do a little better at taking advantage of what is in season nearby. I am not a naturally creative cook. But thanks to the internet, it’s much easier to come up with ideas for all that zucchini at the farmer’s market.
Many of us are about to be bombarded with apples and pumpkins for the next few months. I challenge you to see how many different ways you can use these ingredients, and others in the fall season. One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin is in a pumpkin pie smoothie. And save those seeds! Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, loaded with fiber and magnesium. Here is a roast pumpkin seed recipe to try this season.
If you want to see what’s in season in North America, this website has some good information. They have a UK sister site as well if you live near there.
Autumn is probably my favorite food season, and I will be having my own American Thanksgiving this year in Norway, trying to use as much local food as possible!