Community Agriculture Alliance: Seasonal eating
October 25, 2018
It's almost November, and we've already seen the first snowfall and hard frost of the fall, meaning no more outdoor tomatoes, peas or lettuce from our high-country farms. There are, however, numerous crops that are abundant this time of year: broccoli, romanesco, kale, radicchio, winter squash and cabbage. For those who maintain their own garden, or have tuned their cooking strategies to seasonality, this time of year presents a chance to explore new recipes and crops.
Eating locally and seasonally in the Rocky Mountains isn't easy. It's commonly recited among gardeners that we only have 59 frost-free days to attempt to grow our food outdoors. With season-extending structures like greenhouses and row covers, a garden can produce for a bit longer. The difficulty extends into the kitchen where we are required to do things a little differently. Instead of approaching mealtime with a recipe, then heading to the grocery store for the requisite ingredients, think about changing your plan and to eat seasonally.
Find out what is available, maybe an unfamiliar cut of meat or seasonal vegetable, then build your meal plan around it. Use one of the many online recipe tools to put in ingredients and then find the recipe. We have a plethora of curious, seasonal produce requiring creativity and exploration. A hearty soup is a great go to meal. Veggie roasts featuring colorful root vegetables; carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes and winter squash with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper, makes an easy and delicious dish.
Of course, we are also blessed with a variety of local meat or wild game from our hunting friends. Nothing complements a veggie roast quite like a grass-fed roast, elk tenderloin or deer sausage. There are plenty of recipes online that will walk you through the process of cooking these unique and seasonal ingredients. Or strike out on your own and create something new.
Eating locally and seasonally is an exercise in creativity. The timing and availability of local food requires us to improvise. Rather than choosing a recipe, then finding the ingredients, a seasonal cook knows the basic techniques and can adapt those techniques to the season's harvest. These principles apply not only to vegetables but local meat.
Unlike shopping in the grocery store, where most anything is available year-round, local meat requires patience. There are a limited number of steaks per cow and packages of bacon per pig. Animals are not processed year-round, so availability is often limited. You may not be able to find a T-bone steak but consider another cut or try local lamb, buffalo or veal.
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By using these strategies, and remaining flexible in your cooking and dining you will become more in tune with the ebbs and flows of the growing season. Buying locally is easier than ever thanks to the Community Agriculture Alliance at caamarket.org. You can preorder food or simply stop in the Friday Farmer's Market inside CAA offices at 141 Ninth St. Learn more about what is raised and grown right here in the Yampa Valley and to begin your own exploration into the joys of eating seasonally.
Charlie Preston-Townsend is with Farm to Fork Delivery.