There are many reasons to add seasonal ingredients to the grocery list. For starters, freshly harvested food brings some diversity into the kitchen and provides inspiration for new and different recipes. Not to mention, their ability to enrich any meal thanks to the intense flavors and particularly juicy consistency of fruits and vegetables when harvested at peak times.
Furthermore, plants that are in season grow mostly by themselves. They do not need a greenhouse, fertilizers, or pesticides. With optimum conditions, these crops have a better energy balance and contain all-natural nutrients, which benefits our health as well as the environment. In addition to plants, the harvest of wild seafood is also dependent on the season. Let’s have a look on the seasonal calendar and find out what the next months have to offer.
An autumnal specialty that belongs at the top of the list are the flavorful California prunes. More than 40 % of the world’s supply is produced in the Golden State. California’s lush valleys, with soils nourished by ancient rivers and the endlessly shining sun, offer perfect growing conditions for plums. Besides the environmental conditions, the amount of manual labor involved in growing Californian plums is remarkable. It’s no wonder that these prunes turn out so great, when farmers hand-tend each tree to cultivate the perfect fruit.
The harvest begins around mid-August when the fruits are mellow and juicy. On average, time spent gathering plums is about 30 days. From that time on, the ripe fruit is ready for drying – a process that transforms them into aromatic prunes. The entire process, from beginning to end, is developed mindfully by California Prune growers themselves.
Whether diced, puréed, or kept whole, California Prunes are surprisingly versatile. They can be used to enhance both sweet and savory flavors and bring variation into each meal. Together with farro, butternut squash, and pecans, prunes are a great ingredient for an autumnal bowl. Similarly, the Spiced Lamb and California Prune Meatballs is a warm and comforting dish for a chilly fall day!
“Generations of growers have brought expert craftsmanship to growing California Prunes that surpasses the most stringent agricultural standards of any other nation.”California Prunes
Another West Coast native that flourishes in fall are California Grapes. The ideal climate in Coachella Valley and San Joaquin Valley have led to the cultivation of 80 different grapes over the span of the last two centuries. The green, red and black grapes can be harvested from May to January. Unlike many fresh fruits, grapes are harvested when fully ripe. Timing is everything in grape vineyards because after they’re picked, they do not become sweeter.
When people think of grapes growing on the West Coast, they often associate it with the famous Californian Wine. However, grapes also provide fruitiness to a wide range of recipes, from chipotle chicken and grape tacos to salad with roasted squash, grape and tahini. Give it a try and explore new ways of combining grapes!
Not only sunny California provides us with seasonal and sustainable products. The state of Alaska is home to a real specialty: King Salmon. This wild Alaskan salmon is harvested seasonally and available year around.
Alaskan seafood is flash frozen directly after harvesting, in order to maintain the highest quality. Seasonal fishing is just one aspect of sustainability. Every year, the amount of fish harvested in Alaska is closely managed to ensure that the ecosystem stays healthy, while allowing food enthusiasts around the world to enjoy the taste of wild caught fish. For this reason, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is part of the U.S. Sustainability Alliance (USSA). Together with farmers and foresters, they are working on sustainable practices and conservation programs.
“Unlike many of the world’s other fisheries, Alaska’s are managed for protection against overfishing, habitat damage, and pollution.”Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
The king salmon is the largest of the five salmon species. It’s flavour is succulent and the rich red flesh has a high oil content, lending itself to most cooking techniques. Cooked slowly and combined with other seasonal foods like pistachios, king salmon enriches restaurants’ menus and amateur chef’s creations alike.
As the days become colder …
… a desire for comfort and joy tends to grow amongst us all. Indulging in vibrant and flavorful, seasonal foods is one way to bring some color into mostly grey days. Not only are they rich in nutrients and fun to cook with, but also a great way to bring a little more sustainability into our own kitchens.