Eat Locally and Seasonally with Wisdom from Around the World
Three Steps to Enjoy Cooking and Eating with the Season
People inhabiting Blue Zones—places in the world where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else on Earth, such as Okinawa, the Nicoya Peninsula, and Sardinia—naturally eat local and seasonal foods. In Arizona, we are so fortunate to live in a climate where we have the opportunity to do this for most of the year, given that we have three incredible growing seasons: spring, fall and winter.
Three Steps to Eating Local, In-Season Foods:
- Shop with Local Farmers or Grow Your Own
- Cook Intuitively with Simple Culinary Skills
- Enjoy the Mindfulness of Food
Step 1: Shop with Local Farmers or Grow Your Own
By eating food grown locally, we naturally eat with the season and adopt a more plant-based way of eating, as they do in places like South India and Vietnam.
Shop at Local Farmers' Markets. Farmers' markets have grown dramatically across the United States, from 1,744 in 1994 to 8,687 currently registered in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory. In Arizona, many of our wonderful farmers' markets opened 12 to 15 years ago, and today there are dozens of Saturday markets and a few mid-week markets.
The keys to successfully shopping at farmers' markets are to find a market that's convenient for you; get to know the farmers in your area; and shop at the markets regularly to get in tune with what's growing seasonally. While shopping, try veggies that are new to you. Shop intuitively. Walk around the market and select veggies with textures and colors you're intuitively attracted to.
Eat with the Season with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). One of the best ways to eat seasonally is by purchasing a CSA from our local farmers. With a CSA, we commit early in the season to buy eight, 12 or 16 weeks of produce at the cost of $25 to $35 per week. We support our local farmers economically, and we have the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen with what's growing that week.
Grow Your Own. Around the world, and especially in Italy, people grow their produce and create garden-to-table meals. Gardening is a beautiful experience that takes us back to the basics of eating like our ancestors. In our area, there are so many community gardens where you can plant your own and even volunteer to assist in planting, growing and enjoying your harvest with our community.
Step 2: Cook Intuitively with Simple Culinary Skills
It's important to know a few basic culinary techniques to cook intuitively with what's growing seasonally. This way when we shop at our local farmers' markets or receive our weekly CSA, we are not afraid to cook new-to-us foods, and we have some confidence in the kitchen. Three simple culinary techniques are sautéing, roasting and steaming. Once you learn these techniques, you can purchase any food from our local farmers and then intuitively cook them.
- Simple Sauté. Lightly sauté all kinds of veggies stovetop with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
- Roast Veggies. Choose a few different vegetables. Chop them into about equal-size pieces. Coat with olive oil and sea salt. Roast at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Flip. Roast for another 12 minutes.
- Bamboo Steamer. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Chop veggies (like carrots, beets, radishes) and mindfully place in steamer basket. Steam for five to seven minutes until vegetables easily fall off the fork. Finish with a homemade salad dressing.
Step 3: Enjoy the Mindfulness of Food
Once our local farmers have grown fresh, beautiful food for us and we've enjoyed shopping, it's time to mindfully enjoy our lovely local, seasonal meal.
Enjoy the Cooking Process. While cooking, be present. Gather all of your ingredients before you start cooking and mindfully organize them in mise en place. That is, put your ingredients in place, so when you cook, it's an enjoyable, mindful experience.
Beautifully Plate Your Food. Plating and presentation of food is a perfect time to slow down, like the Japanese, and enjoy the process of presenting your food in an aesthetically pleasing way. We eat with our eyes first. Mindfully place your food on your plate and perhaps garnish with local microgreens or edible flowers.
Enjoy Your Seasonal Culinary Creation. Dine with flowers or music, or outside with nature, and enjoy the meal bite by bite with yourself, your family, or friends.
Take Action. We are all at different places in our lives with regard to eating local, seasonal food. Take a moment to reflect on where you are with your shopping, cooking and eating, and then commit to one action you will take to embrace eating locally and seasonally. Enjoy food and life!
Melanie Albert, founder and chief executive officer of Experience Nutrition Group LLC, is the author of the cookbook A New View of Healthy Eating and healthy recipe blog at EXPNutrition.com, and offers cooking workshops, team building events, and retreats.