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A Guide to Seasonal Produce

July 6, 2012 Le Cordon Bleu Dallas 0 Comments

A Guide to Seasonal Produce

It used to be that consumers would purchase and eat any foods that they found at their local grocery stores, no questions asked. Not so anymore. Today’s consumers, maybe even you, want to know where their food comes from and how it’s raised and grown. This growing conscientiousness over the food we eat has resulted in the sustainable food movement, which involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.

Many culinary schools in Dallas have embraced the local and sustainable food movements in their curricula. Culinary school graduates are being taught how to source seasonal produce and food products to create unique and varied menus for their customers. If your culinary school enrollment depends upon this option, be sure to check with admissions personnel to learn what part local and sustainable foods play in their educational offerings.

Seasonal is Reasonable
One of the major components of this shift toward local, small-scale, sustainable farming is seasonal eating, where foods and produce are only consumed in season. Sure you can go to the grocery in the middle of winter and buy oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are in season, at least in your part of the world. These summer fruits were most likely grown in Mexico, Chile, Israel, or some other region that has sun when you have snow.

Many of these out of season produce choices are pale comparisons to their in-season cousins. That’s because the produce must be picked long before peak ripeness so it won’t rot on its long journey to your local grocery store. Nutrient levels for out of season produce are also lower for this same reason.

Not only do we lose flavor and nutrition in out of season produce, we lose more natural resources. More fuels and energy are consumed to get it the thousands of miles from growing areas to grocery shelves. Overall, the convenience gained is not worth the valuable nutrition and resources lost.

So what can be done if you want to make better year-round seasonal produce choices?

Seasonal Winter Produce
As stated above, the biggest difficulty in moving to a seasonal diet is eating fresh, seasonal produce in winter, especially in colder climates. There are still plenty of healthy and nutritious produce options available without resorting to food grown on the other side of the planet. Here is a list of some of the most common seasonal winter foods:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Clementines
  • Grapefruits
  • Kale
  • Lemons
  • Pears
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Winter Squash
  • And many more ...

Pickling and Canning
The second option is to start worrying about your winter produce in the summer by practicing the lost arts of pickling and canning. This way you can pick or purchase produce at the height of its seasonal freshness and store it for use in those cold, dark winter months. Before factory farming and globalization, pickling and canning were the only ways to enjoy most fruits and vegetables in the winter. With a small investment in equipment and a couple of good books, you can easily bridge those winter months until your favorite produce is back in season.

CSAs and Famer’s Markets
And for the summer and fall months when those tomatoes and strawberries are in season, be sure to purchase them directly from your local farmers at farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. They are the easiest way to put farm-fresh, local produce on your dinner table.

The best way to move to a seasonal approach to eating is to do it in steps and not all at once. Begin by reading the labelsat the produce department. Slowly eliminate foods that are traveling great distances and replace them with locally grown foods, which are much more likely to be in season. An Internet search on “seasonal produce” will provide a wealth of information on how you can eat better by eating seasonally.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Dallas, Texas. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Dallas for more information. 

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures.  
Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.

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