Being a “locavore” is all the rage among eco-friendly folks these days, but for the average food loving person with a busy schedule committing to a complete lifestyle overhaul for the sake of fresh tomatoes can seem daunting, and frankly not worth the effort. For many of us, only eating foods when they’re in season and locally available is simply not doable. Aside from being accustomed to eating strawberries whenever we please, there’s the issue of finding an available market to purchase food from. Farmers’ markets and food coops (food cooperatives) are growing in popularity, but they still haven’t caught on in many rural areas. Despite living in areas known for farmlands, the truth is being a locavore is easier for a city dweller than it is for people who don’t live near metropolitan areas. This doesn’t mean we can’t all incorporate some of the tenants of locavorism into our lives and be better off for it though.
Much is made of the concept of “food miles” (a term coined by Professor Tim Lang), but in truth we can do more for the planet by cutting back on the amount of meat we eat than by buying local fruits and vegetables. The most compelling argument for eating locally is the food simply tastes better for not having traveled across continents (and gone through iffy production processes) to get to your plate. Produce is at its freshest when it’s first picked, the longer it sits the more nutrients it loses.
That is why frozen fruits and vegetables are often recommended when fresh from the farm produce isn’t available—they’re usually frozen right after they’ve been picked.
Another reason to eat locally is to support our local farmers. Supporting local agriculture in your area also means supporting your local economy. Given the current state of global finances, every little bit helps. Plus, if you are lucky enough to live in an area with a farmers’ market, the sense of community derived from buying fruits and vegetables from your neighbors is rewarding in and of itself. However if your area is farmers’ market free, don’t despair, you can find produce from local farmers at most supermarkets. Even Wal-Mart has gotten in on the action.
Make it a habit to know where your food is coming from; check the signs and labels posted in the supermarket to discover the point of origin. If you have a choice between buying grapes from Chile and grapes from California, go with California. It may not quite be your backyard, but it’s closer (unless you’re in Chile, of course). Never be afraid to ask the people working in the produce department where a product came from if it’s not clearly marked, just remember to be polite. They might even be able to point you toward a coop or a farmer you can buy from directly that you didn’t know about. (Full disclosure: if you’re wondering why I have an inside track on the helpfulness of produce workers, my mother happens to be a produce manager and an extremely helpful one at that.)
Once you have made the decision to buy seasonal food the next thing you need to know is what’s in season: check out eat the seasons for a general idea of what’s in season in America, Canada, the UK and Ireland every month, or you can visit Epicurious for a state by state breakdown. But what’s in season right now? I’m glad you asked. Below I’ve listed some of the foods that will be at their peak during February. This is the month for indulging in leafy greens and citrus, with that in mind I’ve also culled the food blogs to find fun recipes to help you incorporate just the right amount of seasonal eating into your lifestyle without having to give up the joys of eating watermelon in the middle of winter, if that’s what you’re into.
Seasonal Foods for February: Arugula, Asparagus, Beets, Bok choy, Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots, Celery, Cilantro, Clementines, Dill , Fennel, Grapefruit, Kale, Lemons, Lettuce, Leeks, Mushrooms, Oranges, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Radicchio, Radishes, Rhubarb, Sunchokes, Shallots, Sweet Potatoes, Tangelos, Tangerines, Turnips
This recipe provides an alternative to the popular bacon-laden Brussels sprouts and it includes two seasonal ingredients thanks to the shallots.
Radishes are an acquired taste, but I happen to love their warm, peppery flavor. If you’re not a fan yet, trying them in a simple recipe like this one is a no-lose situation. This also gives you the opportunity to incorporate fennel into a dish.
Cabbage, lemon, mushrooms, onions, shallots—the perfect recipe for taking advantage of the best late winter foods.
I tried to stick with food blogs, but Rachael Ray’s baked sweet potato fries are simple and tasty—why complicate it?
I’m not a huge fan of lemon desserts myself, but this recipe sounds so delicious I have a feeling it will make me a believer.
Image copyright of Cambridge Brewing Co.