Eating in Season

Eating in Season - Garden Harvest

One of the diet and nutrition gurus that we follow continually touts the concept of eating in season. 

We are spoiled.  In most places, we can go to the supermarket every day and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables no matter what the season.  Even in the coldest climates, the produce section of the market is a plethora of produce.  We can buy tropical fruits in December. We can buy fall squash in the spring.  Such bounty is the result of our modern transportation system and a widely industrialized food production network that stretches around the world.

What Changed?

Such availability is a recent development in food production and delivery.  A hundred years ago, the majority of fresh vegetables available to most Americans grew less than 100 miles from where it was sold and prepared.  People, by and large, did not eat out of season vegetables.

eating in season - canning inspection

There was one notable exception to this rule.  I have first-hand experience with this.  I can vividly remember my great-grandmother opening a home-canned jar of green beans or black-eyed peas and heating them for a Sunday dinner.  She canned and preserved as much of her garden production as she could manage, often bartering or trading other goods such as fresh eggs for extra vegetables to preserve. 

Preservation

Canning and preserving was the key across much of America.  Homes depended on what they canned and put away in the summer and fall to provide fresh vegetables (and sometimes meat) for the table during the winter and early spring months.

But, you say, why would I worry about all the work and trouble of canning when I can drive to the market, get what I want, and be home with beautiful fresh vegetables from the market.

Why go to The Trouble?

There are lots of reasons.  The fact that those industrial vegetables you are buying may have been grown in South America, picked before they were ripe, and shipped here while being ripened artificially using chemicals should be a huge reason.  The fact that there is no way that you can be sure what kind of chemicals were used while the plant was growing should be another.  It is a known fact that the vegetables that are on the market shelves now are less nutritious than those grown even 50 years ago.

Access to a garden can provide you with vegetables that are both nutrition-dense and are grown cleanly and safely.  The next best option is to find local growers who you can meet and know.  You can visit their farms and see how they produce their crops. 

Smaller can be Better

Moving the diameter of your local food web from a global reach to a local reach can dramatically improve the quality of the fresh food you are using at home.  To stretch this availability of nutrient-dense foods past the seasonal aspect of local growing requires that you find some way to preserve those vegetables.

Means and Methods

eating in season - stacked canned goods

There are several ways to do this.  Perhaps the oldest method is drying or dehydrating.  Small home dehydrators are not expensive and can be used to dry and store a wide range of vegetables and herbs for later use.  The methods used by our forefathers are still some of the best around.  Pressure canning, when done properly, can preserve fresh vegetables and meats almost indefinitely.  Water bath canning for some foods can add months or even a few years to the shelf life of that food.  Freezing is another method that can be used to put those seasonal vegetables on your table out of season.

If your garden is about to enter its peak production, you are probably going to have extra produce.  Many of us have been in the habit of simply sharing that extra with friends and family.  Sharing is an excellent idea, but you should still consider preserving some of that extra to provide for your family during those out of season months.  How much more satisfying is the thought of opening a jar of carrots that you grew, picked and canned yourself and putting them on the table in December instead of bringing home carrots grown thousands of miles away, under questionable conditions and with unknown methods.  It might be worth a little extra work.

There are hundreds of good resources on the internet about canning and preserving.  Here is a list of a few of the best that we have found.

Links and Resources

For more information about organic gardening, lifestyles, and living, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.

If you found the information here helpful, you might also find these articles on our website of interest.

Organic Growing Myths

Toss Your Tiller

Mulch

If you have more specific questions or problems, you can contact us using the contact form on our website. You can also post your question to our community forum at this page; West Texas Organic Gardening Community Forum.

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National Center for Home Food Preservation

Ball Jars

Water Bath Canning

Pressure Canning