Getting Food From the Farm to the Table – a Challenge for Many, Including Me!

Farm to Table and seasonal eating is pretty trendy, right now.  More and more people are wanting to get closer to their food, and are beginning to understand the value of local, seasonal eating.  Many consumers are now frequenting farmer’s markets in increasing numbers to enjoy fresh, locally grown food because it is, well, fresh.  Plus,  it usually tastes better and has a higher nutritional value than food that has been imported, traveled long distances, or has had significant time pass between harvest and consumption.

As a small vendor of local, fresh, organic produce, I am happy to see the “locavore” (someone who exclusively or primarily eats foods from their local or regional foodshed or a determined radius from their home – About.com) movement growing, and not just because I have a financial stake in it (ha!  If you could only see my ledgers :O), but because I truly believe that eating fresh, local, and seasonal food is good for the body and soul.

late summer harvest

The people that I sell to believe in this primary principle, as well.  Most of my customers come to me because they want to consume fresh, organic, high-quality produce.  Many rely on me to provide them with a weekly source of fresh produce (through my weekly vegetable subscription) because they want help getting more healthy foods into their diets.  I love that they are open to trying out new varieties that they may have never seen before.

Farm to Table, seasonal eating, while great in theory, oftentimes proves difficult in practice, however.   “What do I do with this UFO looking thingy?” a customer asks about a Bennings Green Tint Scallop Squash.  “What else can I d0 with this zucchini?” another muses.   “I’m a horrible cook”, another quips, or “I just don’t have time to figure out what to do with all of this produce”, someone else admits.

It’s a problem.

I know, and what often ends up happening is that all of that wonderful, fresh, organic, seasonal produce that came straight from the farm and had such great potential doesn’t ever make it to the table, and instead ends up in the compost (or worse, the trash).  I’m not blamin’ anyone, here.  Believe me, I’m guilty of it, too – I’m a farmer, really, and not a cook, so I struggle with what to do with, yet, another zucchini just as much as the next guy. 😉

I’m so thankful, though, that we live in the age of the internet, where recipes that make use of fresh, seasonal ingredients are only a click – or two, or three – away!  (I say, “a click – or two, or three – away” because often times recipes that say they make use of seasonal ingredients really don’t.   Call me a purist, but for me, having to go to the grocery store to build a recipe that makes use of only one or two seasonal items, but many other out-of-season items doesn’t count as “Farm to Table”.  When I say Farm to Table, I’m talking about recipes that make use of -mainly – seasonal ingredients, plus a few other, staple,  ingredients that I already have on hand in my pantry.)  Okay, I’ll get off of my soapbox, now.

Anyway, here are a few, true, Farm to Table  recipe favorites of mine that I thought I’d share with you.  They are quick and easy to assemble, make use of the star of the summer garden- zucchini – in fresh and interesting ways, and taste pretty darn fabulous, too, I might add.

  •  Get breakfast started with these yummy Zucchini Bread Pancakes from  Naturally Ella.  I really enjoy these pancakes.  A great way to start the day with veggies, other than a smoothie!
  • For lunch, enjoy this light meal of Penne with Tomato, Basil, Zucchini, and Garlic from Barilla pasta.  I love that it also makes use of fresh, seasonal tomatoes, and basil.  Whips up in a jiff, too!
  • For dinner it’s back over to Naturally Ella for a Zucchini Paella.  Disclaimer:  I’m actually making this recipe, for the first time, as I write.  It looks amazingly wonderful and filling, and can’t wait to see how it turns out!. (BTW, I’m making it with lentil beans, since that’s what I had on hand, in my pantry :)).
  • And, to round it out, we’ll include a great dessert of Chocolate Zucchini Muffins or Bread from my own archives.  These taste a lot like brownies, or so I’ve been told.  Frost them, if you must, but they are wonderful bare bones, too!

Whether you’re a locavore, or not,   these recipes are a great way to make use of the  summer’s bounty.  I hope you Pin, bookmark, print, or save them so that the next time you get a boatload of summer goodies you’ll know exactly what to do to bring them from the local farm right to your table!

Do you enjoy cooking with seasonal ingredients?  Feel free to share your favorite seasonal recipe in the comments, or post over on my Fb page at /whitsacres.

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Seasonal Cooking and Eating: Three Reasons Why

How often do you stop and think about the seasons when planning a meal?

Until I started growing my own food, the thought of feeding my family based on what was growing at a particular time of  year never even crossed my mind.  If I wanted to toss together a salad made with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers in the dead of winter,  or if my kids wanted a snack of fresh snap peas in the middle of summer,   I simply went to the local grocery store, where almost every food on the planet is available year-round, and quickly and easily purchased any fruit or vegetable we desired.

The other night, as I was assembling a meal of baked winter squashes,  I got to thinking about seasonal eating and how our family’s eating habits have changed over the years, since I began growing a  garden of our own.  It brought a smile to my face to know that I was able to assemble a wonderfully simple, yet elegant meal  from ingredients that came, almost entirely, from our garden — baked spaghetti squash topped with a wonderful, fresh, heirloom tomato sauce (recipe from the Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook)  and, for dessert,  baked acorn squash topped with maple syrup, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

I think it’s a lost art, really… farm-to-table, or seasonal cooking, but it’s something that more people, like me, are starting to take an interest in.  Why?  Three simple reasons:

  • It costs less to eat local food that is in season.   When food is in season, it is in greater supply, and, therefore, costs less — the basic economic law of supply and demand takes effect.  If you grow it yourself, you’ll save even more money.  Even if you have a small garden, or can only grow in containers, you can save yourself hundreds and even thousands of dollars per year.  One of my favorite books for learning how to grow lots of food in a small area  is John Jeavons’ How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine.
  • Food that is in season tastes better.  Now that I know what a real, vine-ripened tomato tastes like (as opposed to one that was picked green, then gassed to turn it red) I will never buy another store-bought tomato again.  This means that we don’t get to eat fresh tomatoes in our winter salads, anymore, but that’s okay.  The taste difference is so amazing that we’re willing to go without for a few months out of the year, rather than compromise our taste buds on store-bought tomatoes that taste like water.
  • Consuming produce when it’s in season means that you’ll be eating a more nutritious product.  According to Brian Halweil, author of Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, “If you harvest something early so that it can endure a long distance shipping experience, it’s not going to have the full complement of nutrients it might have had.”  According to Camilia Salem at yumsugar, “Studies have shown that some crops can have up to three times more nutrients when grown in season.”  This is probably the number one reason why I grow my own and eat what’s naturally in season, now.

So, if it’s not in season, and doesn’t come from my garden I will rarely venture out to the grocery store to purchase fruits or vegetables anymore, and I almost always think seasonally, now, when it comes to planning our family meals because it saves our family tons of money, tastes amazing, and gives our family an added boost of nutrition each and every season of the year.

What are your thoughts about seasonal cooking and eating?  What are your favorite seasonal dishes?  What are your favorite seasonal crops to grow on your own?