How to eat in-season, even in winter

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Eating in-season is easy in spring and summer, but can be a challenge in the winter, especially in northern climates.

You can eat in-season in the winter by growing food indoors, utilizing season extending structures, and by supplementing your diet with food from the cellar, pantry and freezer.

Benefits of eating in-season

Eating foods in-season provides your body with the nutrition it needs most, when it’s most needed. You’ve heard Nat King Cole carol about roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Chestnuts are high in vitamin C, which upholds the immune system during flu season. Deep orange winter squash is rich in Vitamin A. Root cellar potatoes provide potassium for heart health. Winter-grown greens have blood boosting iron.

Another benefit of eating in-season is that it allows us to participate in nature’s cycles of change.  Eaters gain greater awareness of what foods are available at specific times of the year, and fully appreciate those foods. Notice how much sweeter carrots taste when pulled from the frost-covered ground.

It takes less energy to get seasonal food from farm to table. Fewer inputs are needed to grow, harvest and refrigerate fresh food when it is in-season. Eating local, seasonal foods reduces the amount of fuel used to transport fresh food from tropical climates.

Last but not least, winter foods make the most satisfying winter meals. Soothing soups and cozy casseroles are the perfect fit for cold weather. Celebrity chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli said it best, “Winter blues are cured every time with a potato gratin paired with a roast chicken.”

Grow food indoors

Greenhouses, high and low tunnels, and cold frames extend the growing season. This time of year I have to wipe snow off of my cold frames to access the red and green cabbages nestled within. My DIY low-tunnel is full of Swiss chard and spinach. Learn how to build your own DIY low-tunnel.

Indoor grow lights and small scale hydroponic systems allow gardeners to grow food indoors during the coldest months of winter. Microgreens thrive under grow lights. Lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers yield well in simple hydroponic systems.

You can grow sprouts and herbs indoors with no additional infrastructure. All you need is a sunny windowsill. Sprouts are superfoods you can add to any meal to boost its nutritional value. Add Alfalfa sprouts to salads and sandwiches. Spice up soup with radish and broccoli sprouts. Legume sprouts are protein-packed powerhouses. Learn more about superfoods you can grow indoors.

Indoor mushroom growing kits provide you with a continuous supply of fresh fungi all winter long. Shiitake, oyster and baby bella mushrooms are my favorite tabletop varieties. Learn how to grow mushrooms indoors.

Winter foods from the cellar, pantry and freezer

Cellar root vegetables are staples of a healthy winter diet. Potatoes, turnips, beets, carrots and parsnips keep best in cool, dark cellar storage. Onions can also be kept in the cellar, but store them separate from potatoes. Storing potatoes and onions together causes taters to sprout prematurely.

Stock the pantry with dried beans and grains. Together, beans and grains make complete proteins that are vital for nutrition. Ham bean soup, chili, and red beans n’ rice are delicious seasonal meals you can make with beans and grains from your pantry.

Pick or buy bulk food in-season to preserve for year-round consumption. In the summer I can tomatoes, okra and cucumbers to stock my pantry for the cold weather months.

The freezer can give you a glimpse of summer when the garden is buried under snow. Each spring I visit a local pick-your-own strawberry operation and buy extra to stock my freezer. In summer I freeze-pack peppers from my garden. In fall I blanch and freeze broccoli. Learn to freeze garden produce.

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