By 2LT Miriam CraftJanuary 31, 2013
Spring has sprung! And here in the heart of Texas there's no better time to begin eating what's in season. Eating seasonally usually goes hand-in-hand with eating food that is grown locally (AKA locavore). This not only benefits nearby farmers, but also saves you money at the register by the simple principle of supply and demand. Produce that's picked closer to peak ripeness provides more nutrient rich flavor to you and your family for every dollar you spend. Purchasing what's in season will also ensure you are serving up the best tasting fruits and vegetables available. Knowing what's growing now also gives you an opportunity to savor those items that are unique to a particular time of year. This can be a great strategy to encourage more fruit and vegetable consumption! Have you ever tried dewberries, rainbow chard, or blood oranges? When at their seasonal best, these and other curious crops may cause even the pickiest of eaters to appreciate their novelty.
Want to get started but don't know where to begin?
•Look for those special sales at your local grocery (5 Texas Red Grapefruit for $1)
•Look for the "Go Texan" logo found on food and beverage packaging
•Visit some of the websites listed in this article, and keep reading for other ideas on how to start eating like a locavore.
CSA and Pick-Your-Own Farms
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Farms that allow you to Pick-Your-Own (AKA U-Pick Farms) can help you take advantage of the delicious foods grown right here in Central Texas. Community Supported Agriculture is becoming a popular way for farmers to sell shares of their crops directly to individuals or families. Shares are typically packaged in a box or basket and delivered. They might also be available for pick-up in a convenient location every week during the growing season. This system cuts out the middle-man cost to you, saves you time at the grocery store, and provides you with super-fresh food. With CSAs there comes ample opportunity to try new recipes and explore the flavors of each season. Ellan Scott, of Scott Arbor, is an organic CSA farmer in Seguin, Texas. She says the shares are a total surprise every week for her customers. They include a colorful variety of tastes and textures "and that teaches you how to be more creative," Scott says. "Many people don't realize that lettuce and tomatoes don't grow together in Central Texas," she says. However, customers quickly discover ways to whip up mouthwatering meals from their weekly share. "Pretty soon," she says, "your body starts craving what's coming in season next."
In the spring it's tender herbs, lettuces, leeks and oranges. Summer means melons, peaches, tomatoes, and okra. Fall brings apples, figs, grapes, parsnips, and pumpkin. Winter in Texas is perfect weather for greens, broccoli, fennel, and golden beets, just to name a few. Getting hungry yet? Learn more about CSAs and finding one near San Antonio at www.LocalHarvest.org.
If you're not ready to commit to a CSA but still want to try eating more like a locavore, you may prefer to visit a farm in a nearby county and "Pick-Your-Own" favorites. You'll be able to enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables right from the source, and in the quantity that suits your needs. These farms often have already picked produce as well as other items for sale including Texas honey, fresh eggs, and even apple cider (in the late summer/fall). If you're feeling extra adventurous you may even want to pick enough to preserve. It's easier than you may think and there are lots of online and printed resources to inspire and educate you on the finer points of canning. To find Pick-Your-Own farms nearby visit www.EdibleAustin.com or http://www.pickyourown.org/TXsanantonio.htm.
There's a lot to see and do in our local area that celebrates the variety of produce that Texas has to offer. Each month hosts a variety of food festivals all over the state! Why not check out Poteet's Strawberry Festival or the Olive Festival in Elmendorf? Summer has its unique festivals, too, like the Watermelon Fest in Lulling or the Three River's Salsa Festival. These can be a fun way to spend the weekend with friends or family. For other foodie events, resources, and educational opportunities in our area visit www.EdibleAustin.com.
Right here in the city, farmers markets bring the goods to you. Homemade baked goods, herbs, and even flowers can be found alongside bags of shelled peas, mounds of cucumbers and pints of blackberries. Be sure to ask how produce is best prepared if items are unfamiliar to you. Farmers and vendors alike usually have great suggestions for how to prepare their produce. They may even help you find other items to complement your meal. Cooking can be an adventure in itself but remember that variety is the spice of life! Get your family or friends in the kitchen and make a memory, surprise your co-workers with your latest creation, or impress your loved one with a homemade meal.
Eating in season can be as simple or as adventurous as you'd like to make it. Incorporating more seasonal (and therefore tasty!) vegetables and fruits will boost your overall health, and save you money. So whether you decide to shop sales, "Go Texan", or become a CSA member, here's a recipe from my kitchen to yours, to help you relish this season.