health: A quick guide to eating locally and in season
The following blog post is written by Alena Hickman a dietetic intern at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Alena is spending time this summer interning with Melissa Gerharter MS, RD, CSSD. Alena has a special interest in eating disorders and diabetes and hopes to one day open her own private practice.
The phrase “eating locally” does not mean obtaining your food from the closest and/or most convenient venue in your area of town. It does mean supporting local farmers and agriculture in order to sustain the local economy and ensure that farmers receive their fair share of profit for the foods they produce.
The meaning of “local” varies, but the goal is to reduce the distance that the food travels. Locally grown foods require fewer pesticides and have fewer opportunities for contamination.
Some ways to eat locally include shopping at farmers’ markets, maintaining your own garden, inquiring at local grocery stores about local produce that the store carries and dining in restaurants that buy from local farms. Using your ZIP code in an Internet search can help you to determine the availability of locally grown commodities in your community.
Eating locally goes hand in hand with eating seasonally. Doing so means it is unlikely that you will find watermelon at a farmer’s market in May, but you will have produce that might encourage you to go beyond their comfort zone and select fruits and vegetables that you may not otherwise try. Moreover, because the produce is harvested during its peak season, it will provide excellent taste, quality, and nutritional value for your dollar.
If you cannot fathom going a winter without your favorite summer fruits and veggies, consider buying in bulk and freezing some of the excess for another time!
While it may not be the most convenient way to shop on a regular basis, even swapping your normal Trader Joe’s run for a visit to a farm stand in your community once or twice a month will stimulate the economy and your taste buds. Great deal, right?
As a guide, seasonal crops for the spring and summer months are listed below:
May: asparagus, peas, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, rhubarb
June: apricots, asparagus, blackberries, peaches, peas, potatoes, rhubarb, snap peas, squash, strawberries
July: apricots, beets, blackberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cucumbers, eggplant, nectarines, raspberries, squash, tomatoes, watermelon
August: apples, Asian pears, blueberries, cabbage, corn, snap peas, watermelon
For a more extensive list, visit: http://www.simplesteps.org/eat-local/state/michigan