Great Ways to Learn What Produce Is In Season and How to Prepare It

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I have a supplier! Well, actually, I now have two suppliers. One is my friend, Tina, whose neighbors grow produce for the local farmer’s market.  Tina regularly runs over to purchase at the neighbor’s house and has helped me get an “in” to purchase some great veggies prior to the weekend sale. And one evening (before our recent heat wave and drought sucked all the life from everyone’s gardens), Tina even delivered my tomato order to my house. Talk about service! She also has offered to help me track down some fresh basil to make pesto. More recently, I’ve also started approaching my friend, Kaye, who also has a flourishing crop of basil.  It’s nice to have these ins, but there’s also something good to building relationships with local farmers at the farmer’s market. But how do you know what produce to plan for prior to going?

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    Well, one way is to consult Epicurious’s seasonal ingredient map. This graphic provides a 50-state listing of what’s fresh in your area. For instance, if you are in Colorado in August, you can expect to see cantaloupe, chile peppers, corn, eggplant, honeydew melons, peaches, plums, summer squash, tomatoes, and watermelon.  If you live in Maine during this time frame, look for blueberries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melon, peas, peppers, summer squash and tomatoes. And if you’re in Florida during those August, you’ll find avocadoes, corn, green beans, mangoes, and star fruit.

    Another great part of this interactive map is that you can see what to expect produce-wise each month. For instance, if you live in Hawaii, you can keep track of what’s fresh in January (avocados, cabbage, hearts of palm, limes, mushrooms, oranges, rambutans, sprouts, strawberries and tangerines) as well as in June (cantaloupe, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, peppers, lychees, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and tomatoes).

    The interactive map also has another feature – you can place your computer’s cursor on a vegetable (such as kale, which is available in Wyoming in December) and it will provide a link to an ingredient description (a non-heading member of the cabbage family with a mild flavor; store in coldest section of the refrigerator for no longer than 2-3 days; rich in vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron) as well as recipes (such as chestnut and kale soup, kale with garlic and bacon, and fettuccine with sausage and kale) and cooking tips (try dinosaur kale; soak shake and store; and store properly).

    So now that I’ve got you hungering for fresh produce, where can you find recipes? Obviously, the Epicurious website offers plenty of options. I also have three proven cookbooks and one new one that can help you make tasty treats from your fresh produce. Three of the recipe books are from Deborah Madison, who has been a leader in the locavore movement. The first cookbook of hers that I bought was “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” which includes 1,400 recipes. (And no, I’m not a vegetarian, but I do want to add more components of vegetarian diets to my own meals). The second Madison book that I’d recommend is called “Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets”; I made her recipe for Lasagna with Chard, Ricotta and Walnuts for my book group two years ago which won great raves of appreciation and a call for the copy of the recipe. And the third is “Season Fruit Desserts.”

  • More recently, I purchased “Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh” by Emeril Lagasse. I have several recipes earmarked, but haven’t tried them yet. I find that I’m drawn to Lagasse’s call to support local suppliers. “With more than 4,500 farmer’s markets nationwide and more popping up every day, there is really no reason not to support our local markets,” he wrote. “The vendors are able to showcase the very best of what is in season locally – small dairies sell milk, cream, and cheese from cows living perhaps only a few miles away, and farmers bring in product that heralds the arrival of each season. How exciting it is to see these products on our tables, picked at the peak of ripeness and full of nutrients and vitality. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

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    I hope you’ll take the opportunity to find your own produce supplier and make friends with them so you can try vegetables, herbs and fruit at the peak of the season. Your taste buds will thank you!

Published On: August 05, 2011