Buying Produce by the Season

This blog post was prompted by a conversation with my mother about how much she had to pay for a head of cauliflower at the grocery store. She was appalled at the nearly $5/head she paid for her beloved cauliflower, which she uses so frequently in her kitchen. I informed her that this was so because generally cauliflower is a fall/early winter crop, to which she replied that she was unaware. I’m wondering, how many other people are unaware of produce seasons? There is a best time to buy certain produce, when prices are low, and other times when prices soar.

Today’s food system has almost entirely removed the concept of growing seasons, when we can eat nearly any vegetable or fruit whenever we want, simply by going to the grocery store and picking some up. In times of pre-refrigeration and prior to large scale shipment of food via planes, trains, and trucks, people had to rely on growing seasons to determine what they would and could have for dinner. Virtually all food had a season, including meats. Lamb was generally a spring meat while mutton was consumed in fall or winter. Hardy greens could be grown through cooler fall months, while crops such as corn and summer squash required warm temperatures. During these times, people grew what they could and preserved nearly everything in one way or another, to make food last even when it was not in season.

In order to save money on your favorite produce when it is out of season, be sure to stock up when the season is in. Once you have fulfilled your stores, preserve the food which you will not be eating right away. There are many ways to do so, which I have listed below.

  • Freeze It – The first, and most obvious option is to freeze your food. You can freeze produce raw, cooked, or prepared in the way you plan to eat it.┬áMost fruits are best flash frozen.
  • Pickle It – Pickling is a great way to preserve unused produce for later consumption, and in many recipes, pickling does not require refrigeration if canned correctly.
  • Can It – There are SO many ways to can food to preserve it. Jellies, jams, canned meats, preserves, butters, syrups, the list goes on & on. Look into the MANY ways of canning foods for preservation.
  • Dry It – Many foods can be sliced thinly, ground, or marinated and then dried in order to preserve them. These foods can then be eaten dried, or rehydrated and then added into other recipes.
  • Ferment It – Fermentation is one of nature’s original preservation methods. There are many ways to ferment foods to later use, and many fermented foods can be enjoyed by all – ie. kombucha, kefir, kimchi, etc.

When in doubt, look to Pinterest for some ideas on food preservation and ways to lower your food bill. Educate yourself on growing and harvesting seasons for your favorite foods. The more you know, the less of an impact your grocery shopping will have on your wallet.

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