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Jan 12, 2007 11:43 AM

How important is using seasonal produce to you, as chowhound?

It's so easy these days to get produce out of season. I saw a produce manager explaining to a couple of customers yesterday how to pick good honeydew--what are they doing buying honeydew in January if they're looking for good honeydew? I also read suggestions like that here on the board--melon and prosciutto, berries, in winter, tarte tatin in the summer, etc. I do use canned/boxed tomatoes in the winter but for the most part, I buy produce that are in season, and not shipped in from far away. How about you? Do you normally buy seasonal produce, does it not matter to you (or do you not know/care about the difference?)?

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  1. chowser, yes it matters. I shop seasonal produce and buy fresh every day. I'm suspect of melons in January because they are hard enuf to come by (in NJ) at 4.00 each in July! I'd rather buy off a farmers truck, roadside stand than a market and certainly prefer over a grocery chain. Chains refrig & freeze produce, over water the greens..makes me crazy.

    But shopping smart I can find great buys and terrific fresh seasonal produce year round. Give me real produce with the roots and a bit of dirt and I'm good to go!

    1. I'm very picky about my tomatoes - when you're used to the good ole juicy Big Boys or Better Boys during a hot Indiana summer - a dry, grainy hothouse tomato will not do. so I just do without for several months - if the hubby wants a tomato, he's on his own.
      However, I was in Florida after the holidays and bought some outstanding Big Boys at a roadside market. That just might get me through until July...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Spoonula

        Exactly. I live in DC and just refuse to buy tomatoes right now. I'll wait till the season starts.

      2. Scoring local, seasonal produce feels like a religious experience crossed w/ a successful athletic endeavor. The harder to come by, the bigger the thrill. Catching those apricots during the two-week growing season in SC is a major score, and those Italian plums (prunes), the Russian lady w/ the tent outside the grocery store and that gorgeous lettuce, the toothless lady with the rapini that I never saw at the market again.

        Of course, like any thrill seeker, there is always something even more exciting to chase. Every few years, I can catch wild blueberries, at peak ripeness, growning on the top of an almost barren, East Coast Slickrock mountain. Apparently the granite soil and strong sunshine make those berries special. And once you've had giant, glowing-red, trail-side raspberries in Pisgah Forest, even the ones at the farm stand look pedestrian. (the other mountain bikers think I'm psycho)

        1 Reply
        1. re: danna

          Danna, this thread is two years old, but your post caught my eye. When is the apricot growing season in SC? And where do you find them? I didn't even know anyone grew them around here. For that matter, I didn't realize you could find wild blueberries and raspberries in our corner of the country either, though it makes sense that you should be able to.

        2. Seasonal and local is ALWAYS the best, no question. There are several frozen or canned vegetables that work wonderfully in my opinion. Frozen peas, canned beans just to name a couple. I can usually find reasonably good tomatoes in my grocery store year 'round in the plastic container and labeled as "campari" or something similar. They're not grape tomatoes, but usually about 2.5, maybe 3 inches in diameter - not bad. Of course when summer hits, it's only heirlooms for me ;-)

          1. Pretty important, but I live in Boston so I can't get entirely precious about it or I wouldn't be eating any vegetables but rutabagas and parsnips from Thanksgiving through Memorial Day. Like Spoonula above, I forgo tomatoes (and corn) out of season, although since they introduced those grape tomatoes in the supermarkets I'll get a box every once in a while when the craving gets unbearable - they're not too bad.

            There's a lot of different growing seasons represented on these boards, though - I try to keep it in mind when someone's talking about some lovely veggie that I haven't seen locally in five or six months, that they may well live in California, or outside the US in an entirely different climate. Sigh. Someone posted just recently about some contents of their CSA share box - my CSA runs 17 or 18 weeks a year!

            A couple of months back the cookbook of the month was a Mexican cookbook, and after I got it from the library and gave it a quick read-through I realized that I couldn't find a single recipe that appealed to me that didn't involve some fresh ingredient that would only be available in very poor, shipped-from-a-couple-thousand-miles-or-more-away condition. I do the best I can, because I do care a lot both about eating with the seasons and about supporting local farmers (not to mention caring about tasty food!), but I'm conscious that I don't live in the most amenable location.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Allstonian

              I too lice in the Boston area, and agree with you 100%. I buy my produce at Wilson FArm, so always have great seasonal fruits and vegatables. In the winter, I buy the grape tomatoes, and lots of time I serve them roasted. But- sometimes I do crave a taste of summer. On my last visit to Wilson Farms, they had some summer squash. I had to buy it. Have not had it yet- though I will say their butternut had been over the top delicioius this year.

              1. re: Allstonian

                I can't go without my corn. I buy corn at a local farm early in the morning - I try to get it within 2 hours of picking (if it were my own, I'd have the water boiling while picking...)
                I cut the corn off the cob - I do absolutely nothing to it but put it into a freezer bag and then immediately stick it in the freezer.
                On a cold Feb. night, I can pull out a bag and you could swear it was fresh.
                I've tried freezing on the cob, but it gets too mushy. This is the best method I've found and allows me to bask in July and August for just a little while...

                1. re: Allstonian

                  I am in Boston too and hate winter tomatoes. I was talking to a friend the other day who has an industrial Cryovac machine. He insists that you can cryovac tomatoes at thier peak and freeze them and then enjoy then in jan. I had never heard of such a thing, have you?? He said he did it with corn too.