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Aug 3, 2013 10:30 AM

cooking with the seasons

will preface by saying i live in new england and our growing season is short. 100 years ago, i'd be eating root cellar turnips much of the year and if i only ate "local", i'd never enjoy an avocado or a lemon.

that being said, i am often puzzled by menus proposed on here. just because pears may be available in my local stores now, doesn't mean those pears are any good at all. they are either from october's harvest and have been in cold storage, or picked rock-hard and flown many 1000s of miles. right now i've got local berries and stonefruits by the bushel.

often in winter, i see people proposing caprese salad, or something with corn on the cob. in about 6 weeks, i won't eat either of those foods til next year.

so, hounds, how important is it to avoid seasonal dissonance when you are cooking? especially for parties?

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  1. I think your dismissal of stored/imported produce is overly broad. A couple of months ago, Hannaford had pears on sale, and they were superb. I don't know where they were from or how they were ripened (I've read that pears don't get sweeter after picking but I find that claim suspect). Other than when I know locally grown produce is in its prime, I decide what to make based on what supermarket offerings look good. I would never decide in advance to make peach cobbler in May. Caveat: I happen to be good at discerning when typical kinds of fruit are ripe and juicy.

    My impression is that a larger proportion of the population eats the same way year round than contributors to this Board would imagine. In supermarkets, I regularly see people purchasing hard peaches, and bright green pineapples that have no chance of ever being sweet. I take coumadin, the dosing of which is affected by certain foods. Those of us who are on it are told by doctors and nurses to eat the same foods year-round in order to keep our clotting factors in the desired range. I won't do that, which results in having to have more frequent blood tests and dose adjustment. The coumadin clinic staffers seem puzzled to hear that I cook seasonally. When Trader Joe's has the fresh stalks of Brussels sprouts, I enjoy THEM, but not the biweekly bloodletting that follows.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      Another Coumadin/warfarin lifer here.

      Two things that helped me:
      INR reader for home use (ask your insurance company-it may be covered 100%) and a pill-splitter.

      I understand wanting to eat "seasonally".

      Oooh, and doctor-shop? I had a wonderful MD advise me to "eat more spinach" (i love the leafy green!) the other day-rather than messing with my medication dosage. On Friday night "wine night" I just try to balance it out by eating a nice leafy-green salad.

      Good luck and happy eating and cooking!

    2. I always assumed that most of the seasonal dissonance in menus proposed here are reflective of where the poster lives, more than just eating out of season foods. But, I dunno.

      I was in Oregon last weekend (about a 5 hour drive from me) walking around a pear orchard, talking to the owner. The pears are usually ripe by now (end of July) however, they are about two weeks behind this season. The peaches are a few weeks behind as well. So if I suggest a pear tart right now, it would not be seasonal dissonance for me, but you might think so.

      The same with seafoods on each coast.

      1. I try to be seasonal, but I have a similar problem, in that the growing season here is very short, so if I truly ate only seasonally, I'd be shit out of luck in winter. I think folks who live in places like California forget that most of us in the rest of the country don't have access to great produce year round. I know I was dumbfounded when I left California for the first time to move to Chicago, that I couldn't get things like good grapes at the grocery store.

        So, I take the approach of eating seasonally in that, if it's in season somewhere in the country, I'll try to use it. So, in winter it's lots of winter vegetables like broccoli and squashes (even though these aren't grown locally in winter). In summer, it's more tomatoes, peppers, and corn (which are grown locally).

        When I give food suggestions I try to keep that in mind too... I wouldn't think to suggest someone serve butternut squash in July.

        2 Replies
        1. re: juliejulez

          somebody i know who is a boston local just suggested butternut squash risotto the other day. lol. and not long before another posted to another about making a maple apple cake. we're all in the same place !!!

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I was shocked this week to see scads of very large butternut squash in Kroger here in VA.

        2. I live in NE too and while I prefer "local/in season" and for the most part try to stick to it sometimes you can find good out of season foods, some even local. A good example is Backyard Farm tomatoes out of ME. I wont hesitate to buy those or even kumatos when the craving for a fresh tomato strikes in January. Our winter farmers market offers frozen veggies they grew/froze themselves which is nice too.

          I also take advantage of the short growing season here and freeze my own veggies I get from the CSA and farmers market-things like freshly shucked corn kernels, local fruits and berries and veggies. I make sauce from tomatoes, pesto from all the basil. Following this board I see that many people do the same. Nothing better to perk up a dreary winter day than bowl of pasta with pesto or a corn and black bean salad.

          I guess I tend to take people at face value, especially CHs and assume if they suggest a caprese salad in February or a pear tart in August that they live in a place where fresh tomatoes and ripe pears are available. If it doesn't work for me I just move on or let the poster know It not available to me.

          I think CH's (as on many other boards) there is propensity to be very US-centric as well as assume that people are from their general area. There are posters from all over the world and all over states on these boards so unless I am on my local board I try to keep that in mind.

          1. I live on a small, cold island off the coast of northern Europe. Like the OP, we have a short growing season and, for some fruit and vegetables, we always have to import as they don't grow in this climate.

            That said, I try to buy and cook seasonally. Fairly easy now and will be into October - but it gets tough in the winter months, when it's pretty much root vegetables and cabbage.