I'm always happy when spring arrives; it’s like a promise of
renewal after a long winter. It’s also the beginning of colors—in the garden,
in the produce aisle, and at the local farmers markets. Everything is lighter, brighter,
and popping with new flavors this time of year.
We’re so fortunate to
live in an area where we’re literally surrounded by farmland. It makes it easy
to eat seasonally and plan menus based on what local farmers have to offer. I
get great joy from buying direct, seasonal, locally-grown foods because it’s tasty, healthy
and it’s good for our local economy. I
like the relationship with our local growers and our food. Farmers make choices
on how they can grow more sustainably, and this provides us with
healthier foods and a healthier planet when they grow without harmful and very expensive chemicals.
People are growing more and more interested in how and where our foods are
coming from, and that is a good thing for our health and knowledge of our
fruits and vegetables, picked at the peak of freshness, offer higher
nutritional content an out of season, unripe foods. While it’s true that you
can often find just about anything you’re looking for at a large grocery store,
regardless of the time of year, that isn’t always a good thing. There’s a
reason out-of-season produce looks and tastes so bland. It’s been picked early
and shipped very long distances.
you know that eating seasonally also helps to support our bodies’ natural
cleansing and healing abilities? Leafy greens and vegetables like dandelion
greens, spring onions, and spring garlic are great healing foods which detoxify the liver and cleanse the blood. By making conscious healthy eating habits, I
have personally improved on my own health and well being, weaned myself off of
BP medication (while consulting with my doctor), and I feel so good.
I look forward to all changes of the seasons and the flavors
of each season’s harvest. After enjoying a winter of hearty slow-cooked soups
and stews full of the earth tones of root vegetables, it is now time to spring into an explosion of color and
crunch with sweet and fragrant ingredients. Some favorites are asparagus,
spring onions and garlic, peas, lemons and cherries. Just like the weather,
everything gets lighter and brighter. We all love quick and easy dishes, and
with a few things from the garden and a bottle of your favorite olive oil you
can toss together your favorite vegetables and herbs with pasta, local rice or
beans for a perfect, healthy weeknight dinner. Toast some fresh bread, and try a spread of
mashed peas with butter, lemon and fresh herbs.
I was lucky to be brought up to think about the importance
of eating fresh, local and in-season. My mother planted those seeds in me. She
always cooked and we didn’t eat out, we ate at the dinner table. Dining out wasn’t
in our family budget, and Mom didn’t believe that fast food was good for us. (she’s
a smart cookie) Though I didn’t think it was cool at the time, I am so grateful
now, that she fed and taught us well. I’m striving to teach my own children how
important it is, to make good food choices, and make time together growing,
preparing and enjoying real food. After all, the gift of health and enjoying
each other are some of the greatest things we can give our children, and spring
is the perfect time to begin the lesson.
The importance of eating with the seasons really can’t be
overstated. Flavor and freshness are paramount, and living in California allows
us to keep things close to home, whether it’s your favorite farmers market or
your own backyard. In fact, roaming the aisles at the farmers market, or even
scouting the produce section at your local grocery store can inspire you to get
creative when you try things you’ve never cooked with before. For instance, I
have no idea what I’d do with the stinging nettle I saw recently at the Yuba
City Midweek Farmers Market, grown by farmer friend Lacie, of Robertson Family
Farm. I’m going to search for recipes, experiment and find out. After all, I am
Green Sharlene, as in always green with learning and getting out of my comfort
zone to try something new. Why not challenge yourself to try one new ingredient
every week and see what you come up with?