Something I have become increasingly interested in is eating seasonally. Rather than committing myself to a shopping basket filled with the same produce all year round, I’m trying to build an understanding of how I can alter my meal planning to fit with the natural ebb and flow of local crops.
Eating seasonally involves rotating your grocery shopping just as the weather rotates around us; choosing produce naturally abundant at certain times of year. As well as being damn delicious, eating seasonally can be kinder to your wallet and to the planet. Items in season in your local area will likely be cheaper (as there’s more of it around close by), plus these items require less transport grunt to get to you (reducing fuel, packaging, etc). There are also nutritional benefits to consider; local, seasonal food will be fresher (less nutrient loss during storage time), and may even be less contaminated with preservatives and/or pesticides because it’s not been grown out of season or stored/transported for an excessive period of time. Eating seasonally will also help you to eat a more varied diet, increasing the variety of nutrients you are exposed to.
My friend and expert natural chef Ceri Jones (blogging at Natural Kitchen Adventures) is a great source of seasonal eating inspiration; she’s often highlighting her locally sourced ingredients and promotes eating seasonally in many of her recipes. So much so that part of Ceri’s recently released Natural Kitchen Adventures recipe phone app is a handy section on the seasons, summarising the key fruit & veg to look out for at different times of the year.
I downloaded Ceri’s app last week and have been enjoying rifling through her 50 healthy recipes and seasonal eating tips. To help you become better at eating seasonally too, Ceri has very kindly put together some simple tips for us all to follow. And as an extra treat, also below is a feature recipe from the Natural Kitchen Adventures app for a gorgeous Pink Tahini Buckwheat Salad. This earthy, vibrant salad is nourishing and delicious, you will love it!
– by Ceri Jones, Natural Kitchen Adventures
Eating seasonally is about making the most of fresh produce that’s available right now, and ideally grown as near to you as possible. Why? Its fresher, delivers better flavour, and more nutrition per bite, not to mention less air miles and being better for the local economy; It’s good for the environment as well as for you.
Here are my 5 tips on how to eat with the seasons, and also how to make the most of the weird and wonderful produce that fills them.
- First you’ve got to know what’s in season. You can look up monthly seasonal food lists on line,(for example on www.eattheseasons.co.uk), or look at whole seasons – a feature I was keen to build into my app. Also, smaller organisations like Made in Hackney where I teach cookery also send out tips in their monthly newsletter, even including foraged and wild foods.
- Visit a farmers market. Whilst the online guides are great for giving you a broad idea – I rely on them hugely for planning events in a future season – you can also just go out to the markets and see for yourselves which foods are currently in abundance. A bit like looking outside to judge the weather rather then relying on the forecast (which is not always correct!). Its also a great chance to speak with the knowledgeable stall holders and lean on their advice. For example I once planned to cook purple sprouting broccoli at a supper club when it should have been in full season but bad weather had meant none was available that week. I was offered kalettes instead (a cross between a sprout and kale), it not only introduced me to a new vegetable but an incredible one at that.
- Subscribe to a veg bag or box scheme. Much like a farmers market each week you will be delivered vegetables that are in season. I am a member of my local organic scheme called Lee Greens and the produce differs weekly which I love. Most of the time the foods or crop varieties are ones not available in the supermarket. For example the last few weeks I’ve had turnips, lots of chard, rainbow carrots, and various squashes.
- Be inquisitive and seek out inspiration in those less popular vegetables. Get acquainted with their taste and texture, learn multiple ways to enjoy them by looking up recipes online (or in my app) or look for simple flavour combinations in The Flavour Bible book (*NB: Amazon affiliate link has been provided to the book). It means you’ll expand your cooking repertoire, try out more foods (hello more phytonutrients), and never go back to eating the same vegetables over and over again.
- Experiment with preserving methods. Whether that be freezing summer berries, fermenting cabbages into kimchi and sauerkraut, or making chutneys, curds and jams. It just might be the best way to carry your favourite seasonal ingredients into less abundant times.
Thank you so much Ceri for sharing your tips with us! As an added bonus, I’ve got one of Ceri’s amazing recipes from The Natural Kitchen Adventures App to share with you here. This is the Pink Tahini Buckwheat Salad, which is pictured at the top of this post as well. I made (and photographed) this after thoroughly exploring Ceri’s app and it’s an absolutely ace recipe! Buckwheat is one of my favourite gluten free “pseudo cereals”; it’s got a lovely satisfying chewy texture and is delicious in both sweet and savoury dishes. Here it’s combined with sweet, earthy beetroot and a divine tahini, lemon and garlic dressing. So creamy, but it’s actually dairy free. I also cooked the buckwheat by the ‘pasta method’ as recommended by Ceri and I am a convert (usually using the absorption method) – it’s so easy and produces an excellent result!
- 7 beetroot bulbs, scrubbed and sliced into wedges
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 400g buckwheat
- 1 bunch radish, topped and tailed, and thinly sliced
- 3-4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
- 1 bunch coriander leaf
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Some water
- Preheat oven to 180C. Toss the beetroot in olive oil and a pinch of salt and lay out on a baking pan. Roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes until tender (will depend on how sensitive your oven is).
- Whilst the beetroot is cooking, rinse then boil the buckwheat grains, using the pasta method – bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the buckwheat and cook for 15 minutes. Drain well and lay out on a cold baking sheet to cool.
- When the beetroot is fork tender, remove from the oven and cool. Take some of the chunks (approx. the equivalent of a whole beetroot) to make your dressing. Blend with the tahini, water, garlic, lemon juice and salt to a thick paste. Add water until a pourable consistency is achieved.
- Toss the cooled buckwheat with enough dressing so the grains are all coated, then stir through the roasted beetroot, the radish & spring onion slices and a heap of fresh coriander. Top with black pepper. Serve.
- Any spare dressing can be kept in a jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.
The Natural Kitchen Adventures app, featuring 50 healthy recipes inspired by seasonal eating, is available to download on iTunes now – click here to go straight to the iTunes page for the app!