I have been dreaming of vegetables lately. I am a great proponent of eating seasonally, but what does that mean here in Colorado where we just don’t have much growing at this time of year? February is a challenging time to find fresh, healthy foods; this shoulder season is somewhere between using our storage produce such as winter squash and root vegetables and starting to savor the first asparagus and artichokes of spring. So what do we do to get the freshest, most nutrient-packed foods at this time of year? Here are a few suggestions:
Look for what’s local. Even if vegetables have been in storage, local means that they haven’t had to go far to get here. Colorado-grown produce (which is usually marked clearly at the grocery store) will have had less damage during shipping and fewer chemicals applied to it to preserve it during shipping. Also, less fossil fuels will have been used to get it here.
Flash-frozen produce. Although fresh is definitely the ideal, at this time of year some produce will be superior for taste and quality. For instance, domestically grown, organic, flash frozen berries would probably be a better choice than conventionally grown berries from Chile.
Cold-weather crops. Even though we’re not growing much in Colorado at this time of year, some of our neighbors on the West Coast are in climates that can support growing some crops right now. Some of what you may find right now would be the cool-weather crops such as leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, and possibly some of the root vegetables such as beets, radishes and early turnips.
Make friends with your local produce people! Those guys and gals quietly stacking onions are generally very friendly and chock full of knowledge about where things come from, when they were picked, how they were grown, and what’s most delicious right now–remember this great resource!