Mother nature is particularly clever at delivering season appropriate food. Salad vegetables, asparagus and peas are available in spring when we’re ready to shed our winter woolies and eat light, fresh meals. Juicy watermelons are available when we’re wanting to quench our summer thirst. Pumpkins conveniently co-incide with Thanksgiving dinner and root vegetables are in season when our bodies need hot, nourishing soups and stews on a cold winter’s night.
Eating what is in season can also be a good strategy for consuming a greater variety of fruits and veggies. As we go through the seasons different products come available providing different nutrients for us as well as a mixing it up over the year for more interesting meals.
In season produce is also unlikely to have been stored for a long period or shipped far to get to you. I’m not anti storage or shipping. Most weeks I’ll buy something that has been imported to my area to supplement my locally grown fare. Bananas, for example, are often in our fruit bowl and they sure haven’t been grown in Oregon. Avocados are something we like to have year round too which means eating imported product. So I’m grateful that imported and stored produce is available. However, usually produce that is at the height of it’s season and freshly harvested tastes better than stored or lengthy transported fruit.
In season eating means eating at a product’s greatest availability which generally equates to a cheaper price. It’s one of the paradoxes of the industry that the best tasting, best quality produce is also when it’s at its cheapest. That’s good news for the consumer who is wanting to eat the tastiest and best produce whilst saving on the food bills.
At this time of year, my weekly veggie box provides all the ingredients for a great Fall dish: ratatouille. The trick to a good ratatouille is getting the cooking order of the veggies right. The onion (and garlic) go in the pan first. Give the eggplant a head start on the other vegetables. The peppers should go in next followed by the zucchinis. I put the tomatoes in last because I used a tin from the cupboard (we did get tomatoes in the box this week but they were already long gone by the time I made this). Basil, parsley, marjoram, thyme, or any French provincial herbs will bring out the flavour of the vegetables.
Ratatouille is a French provincial dish and was originally as ugly as the mix above, all cooked in a single pot on the stove. It was later that the prettier layered versions became popular.
Ratatouille can also be used as a filling for crepes or omelettes. Obviously the veggies would be better in smaller pieces if you want to use it like that. My daughter would love this mix in a crepe or omelette, but as it was she was happy with tonight’s dinner.
Layered ratatouille picture from here.