Eating with the seasons is beneficial to the health of the body because it allows the body to go through various needed changes that balance our internal environment and functions. Eating with the seasons also allows us to get the most flavor, nutritional value, variety and allows for the most affordable selection of food. Foods hold their highest nutritional content at the peak of their ripeness, which occurs within the traditional growing season. When we eat in tune with the natural rhythms of the seasons it allows for our own balance to naturally to occur. Eating with the seasons is a great tool in balancing and improving digestion among various other improvements.
There are three options- farm 3 seasons (Winter, Spring and Summer) or Traditional Chinese Medicine 5 Element/Seasons (Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn and Winter) or commonly known simple seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn)–if you decide to give this a try you can pick which one is best suited for you to work with and research more about each aspect….
Below is a simple list of what is available in the spring time which is not everything that can be accessed during this time of year…
Herbs: chervil, chives, dill, horseradish root, mint, parsley, tarragon
Salad greens: arugula (rocket), baby lettuces, endive, mâche (corn salad), mizuna, pac choi, sorrel, spinach, watercress
Cooking greens: beet greens, chard, collards, kale, radish greens, spinach, turnip greens
Root veggies: beets, parsnips, radishes, salad turnips
Sea veggies: dulse, various kelps (such as kombu and wakame), nori (laver), wrack
Fruits: apricots, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, rhubarb (not technically a fruit), strawberries
Ephemeral garden treats: garlic scapes, pea shoots
Wild edibles: cactus pears, cattails, claytonia (miner’s lettuce), dandelion greens, fiddlehead ferns, lamb’s quarters, morel mushrooms, nettles, pokeweed, purslane, ramps (wild leeks)
Garden veggies: asparagus, garden peas, potatoes, scallions, spring onions, sugar snap peas
Meat: Most pasture-raised meat and wild game is best in the fall and winter, but spring is a great time to stock up on frozen and aged meats. In some areas, there is also a spring turkey season.
Fish: Spring is the season for most freshwater fish including bass, carp, catfish, crappie, pike, salmon, sunfish, trout and walleye. Saltwater seasons vary.
Dairy: Fresh milk and cheeses made with milk from animals that graze on green pasture are highly nutritious in late spring.
Eggs: Fresh farm eggs are rich with omega-3 fatty acids and other grass-derived nutrients in spring.
Nuts and seeds: Because most kinds of nuts are not harvested in the spring, you will want to choose roasted nuts for the best flavor.
(follows the Traditional Chinese Medicine 5 Elements/Seasons)
Rebecca Katz in her book One Bite at a Time very cleverly describes how to balance your flavors in any dish by using the four basic ingredients which are fat, acid, sweet and salt (FASS).
For fat use high quality fats like extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee depending on the dish that you are preparing and its application. Know your fats and use them reverently. Rebecca refers to fat as the “magic carpet” that caries the flavors across your palate. The tongue is covered with many different islands of taste buds thus fat has the emulsifying action to blend all the flavors together in a well-orchestrated symphony. Another quality of the fat is to add substance to a dish leaving as satiated and well nourished. Just keep in mind a little fat goes a long way.
Acid brings brightness to any dish. It breaks down the tissues and fibers in vegetables and meats allowing the savory juices to run freely. An acid keeps greens from oxidizing, it is a great counterbalance to sweet flavors in a dish and helps reduce the salt required. There are many great choices for acids lemon and limes are some favorites to use and there are great vinegar choices. Again experiment with different choices and be creative.
Salt is the magic ingredient that brings out the flavors of whole foods, it is like a key that unlocks a door. Sea salt crystals act like little scrubbing bubbles that release flavors. It adds depth and roundness to the choir. Sea salt has no substitutes it has more than 80 minerals and elements from the sea. From the science side it has been suggested that sodium stimulates and improves the conductivity of electrical current in nerve cells. Table salt in not what we are talking about, that is a processed, bleached and filled with different chemicals to keep it white and dry. Salt is naturally hygroscopic loves moisture.
Sweet considered the matriarch of the flavors, brings balance to all others, increases our pleasure. Sweet is the flavor that we tolerate most; the brain loves it and asks for more each time. It cuts any bitterness and acid in any dish. Key is to use it in great balance. When you finish a meal on a sweet note you feel rewarded and content.
Now you know the key players in flavoring meals go ahead and experiment. Honing your taste buds requires a lot of trial and error in the kitchen the more you experiment the better you will become. Always start out with small amounts so that you can really feel the difference when your finished dish is seasoned to perfection. The best way to experiment is to make soups, which are why our second module is centered on soups. Just think you are taking a flavorless element – water- and you are creating a pot of delicious and nutritious meal that tantalizes all the taste buds and nourishes the mind, body and soul. Start out with fresh, whole organic, local and seasonal produce and create your magic using this incredible useful technique FASS.
Below is what should be consumed and examples….
Daily recommendation:4 half-cup servings
1/2 small apple
1/2 large orange
1/2 large banana (8 to 9 inches long)
4 large strawberries
¼ cup dried fruit
16 seedless grapes
Daily recommendation: 3 one-cup servings
1 large tomato (3” diameter)
1 large baked sweet potato (2 1/4″ or more diameter)
1 heaping handful of most veggies
2 medium whole carrots
2 cups raw greens (including spinach, kale, romaine, watercress, escarole)
Daily recommendation: 6 to 8 one-ounce servings
1 regular slice of bread
½ cup cooked oatmeal
½ cup cooked pasta or rice
7 square or round crackers
3 cups popped popcorn
(The USDA advises that at least half of all grains eaten should be whole grains.)
Daily recommendation: 2 ½ to 3 two-ounce servings per day
1/2 to 3/4 can of tuna
1/2 cup cooked beans
small 2-ounce steak
Remember these are just recommendations– loving your body the way it is… is the most important thing ever… HUGS