Did you know winter is the season for unearthing? You know, unearthing: to find something in the ground by digging; to discover something hidden by investigation or searching. Do you know why? Well, prior to the grocery store landscape changing in the 1960’s, underground root vegetables made up the majority of winter diets because they could be grown even in cold climates.
So, are you up for eating the old-fashioned way?
Before we started shipping from Florida (and then Mexico, and China, and South America), we ate the foods that were available to us locally each season. Even now, those seasonal eating habits stay with us, even if we’re not conscious of them. Who else starts craving warm stews, pot roasts, and carbs the moment Autumn arrives? And don’t tomatoes and strawberries just make sense in the summer?
Over the holidays, I thought about Laura Ingles Wilder (of Little House on the Prairie fame) and her story of harvesting and storing garden-grown fruits and vegetables to get the family through the winter, while preparing fresh meat, bread, butter and cold-hardy crops like potatoes to supplement what they had preserved. That was eating with the seasons. And I think there is a place in modern society to appreciate the seasonality of foods, despite the fact everything is right at our fingertips. For some, it’s hard to even understand the seasonality of produce because everything has always been available year round. That level of disconnect shows the lack of understanding we have about our food system.
Most people are happy to trade to the loss of nutrient density in food for their reliance on convenience. But here’s what’s true:
・Plants grow better (and taste better!) when they are in season.
・Chemical usage is increased when we grow and ship year-round because we are forcing plants to grow unnaturally. Those chemicals increase our body’s toxic load and have proven harmful side effects.
・Chemical applications to grow certain foods at large scale cause the loss of nutritional value and degraded taste. Produce is picked prematurely to accommodate shipping times, causing a loss of nutrients and taste. Preservatives are usually applied post-harvest for transport, adding another layer of chemicals we ingest.
Look, I’m as grateful as the next person that I can pop into my local grocery in Wisconsin and pick up an avocado. I don’t forgo all modern conveniences! But I make it a point to add seasonality into my home and my life whenever I can, and I think you should too.
Even in winter, when I’m freezing my butt off and dreaming of those sunshiney morning walks in my garden every day in the summer. Even then, I remind myself that winter is a time to enjoy and embrace what the season brings us, and like Laura Ingalls, I’m pulling out all the garden foods I preserved over the summer. It’s the next best thing to fresh! From adding some canned tongue of fire beans to a batch of minestrone soup, to finishing up the last of my stored onions, to using all my frozen berries to make pies and crisps for holiday gatherings, the garden is the gift that just keeps on giving over here at the Oglesby’s! (Btw, that berry crisp recipe will be featured in the garden-to-table membership next month. . .)
And to keep it fresh, I lean on microgreens in the winter. It’s so easy to grow some sprouts or microgreens right on your countertop – a nice visual reminder that you can add them to everything: salads, smoothies, soups, sandwiches, burgers, whatever you can think of, really.
Don’t forget about nuts! Many of us can’t grow them, but nuts have a ton of nutritional value and add a crunchy texture profile to whatever dish you throw them into. Here are some other seasonal foods you may have forgotten about:
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Sweet Potato
- Winter Squash
I challenge you to make it a priority to see how much you can eat seasonally out of your garden. While ginormous, fluorescent, busy grocery stores are the norm now, when you think about it, it wasn’t so long ago that most people were growing their own food. If our great-great-great grandparents could do it, I’m sure today, with all the help of modern technology, we can do it too.
We just have to make it a priority. So, I encourage you to dig in. Let’s see what we can unearth.
Need a guide to living the garden-to-table lifestyle? Click here to get my guidebook. It has everything you need to get started!