When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, following the rhythm of the seasons for seasonal eating is a great way to get in touch with the abundance of local produce and farm goods available in Indiana. Summer, spring, fall and winter all have their own earthly treats to offer. Whether you’re just beginning to peruse the local farmers markets or you grow your own vegetables, the ample farmland of our region has a treasure trove of seasonal produce.
So What Is Seasonal Eating?
All food is not created equal
You may wonder what the health benefits are of eating seasonally. Doesn’t an apple grown in Mexico in the spring have the same nutrition facts as one grown locally in Indiana? The answer? Yes and no. Seasonal produce tends to be higher in nutrients, actually, because it’s picked closer to the peak of ripeness. Also, produce begins to wilt and lose nutrients the minute it is picked. By avoiding long shipping hauls, local produce gets eaten more quickly from the time it’s picked to the time it reaches your dinner table.
Speaking of a long haul, consuming seasonal produce is also better for the environment. Grocery stores, many times, must receive shipments of fruits, vegetables and even meat from other places within the United States and even worldwide. That extra gas and cost that it takes to get your out-of-season apple to your local grocery store takes a toll on our environment as well as a whole host of nonrenewable resources, such as oil.
Another benefit of shopping locally is the chance to interact with the farmer who grows your food. Nobody knows the land better than someone who must tend to a farm all day every day from sunup to sundown. They know which plants are best to harvest at different times of the year and when certain produce tastes best. Plus, you are directly supporting someone who is working hard to ensure food chain stability for you and your entire community.
What is seasonal now?
Depending on the time of year, there is a wide variety of available local seasonal items, ranging from fruits to vegetables an even meats and dairy. Summer and fall offer the biggest hauls, as these months are the height of the growing season. In Indiana, the growing season lasts from about April 27 to October 7.
Many people love shopping the farmers market during the summer season. You will find a huge array of fresh produce, including berries, melons, asparagus, greens and other cruciferous vegetables, peas and beans, lettuces, mushrooms, peppers, fresh meat and cheeses, and much more.
Fall brings apples, pumpkins, winter squashes, beets, Brussel sprouts, carrots, onions and even some berries as well as other foods. If you think about the items on a traditional Thanksgiving table, they include a lot of the fall produce grown in Indiana.
Winter is a great time for beets, carrots, turnips and root vegetables. You can also find cold-hardy greens such as collards and some varieties of kale. Winter squash got its name for growing during this time of year as well. Again, many farms sell meats, dairy products and a whole host of canned or homemade goodies to try out in your kitchen.
Spring is the very tender beginning of the growing season. Farmers work hard to estimate the date of first frost and plant accordingly. Spinach, lettuces and other greens are great for springtime. You can also find asparagus, peas and radishes. This is when most of the seeds are planted for the large harvest of summer abundance.
Along with avoiding processed foods and choosing foods to balance out your plate, eating locally can help you to feel more in rhythm with the seasons of the Midwest and help you stay connected to the land you call home. On top of that, you will be supporting local agriculture and helping the environment by keeping your dinner ingredients close to home.