If you appreciate good food, you’ve probably heard the term “seasonal eating.” It’s a fairly recent food term for a lot of people, but it’s how humans ate for thousands of years before corporate agri-business practices and global shipping made it possible for us to buy corn in December, blueberries in January and Brussels sprouts in February.
You probably also know that eating seasonally, just like eating locally, can be beneficial to your health because it necessitates variety, and that it can also be good for the planet because it reduces shipping.
But have you ever considered that it can also be a boon to your wallet?
Seasonal items are cheaper because they’re more plentiful and frequently require shorter shipping distances (think of those January blueberries, typically coming to your local grocer from South America).
Buying seasonally is a tried-and-true trick among chefs. Not only does it allow them to offer variety on their menus, but it helps them to keep down costs so their rate of return on dishes is higher. It’s a trick you can use at home to help you keep your food budget in check.
Christine Nunn, executive chef at Picnic on the Square, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and author of The Preppy Cookbook, said seasonal items are very important at her restaurant and when cooking at home.
“Summer is a dream time to get great bargains, and better produce, at both the grocery store and at the numerous farmer’s markets that are sprouting up like weeds throughout the country,” Nunn said.
“At my restaurant … and as well as at home (and especially at my lake house), seasonal vegetables are the star of the plate. Spring onions, first-of-the-crop Swiss Chard, and of course, the gorgeous tomatoes that grow in my home state of New Jersey are always a hit, with minimal cooking.”
Squash, Squash, Squash
Chef Nunn’s favorite, though, is the summer squash and, of course, squash blossoms.
“The yellow squash turn a gorgeous bright yellow with streaks of orange and green that make a great presentation when cooked lightly, as it should be,” she said.
A great use for the green summer squash, or zucchini, is in a quick deconstructed ratatouille, Nunn suggested.
“Also, if you simply take a wide peeler, and lay the squash on a cutting board, you can easily create beautiful, colorful squash ribbons that can be sautéed in either butter or olive oil for about two minutes,” she said. “Add some fines herbs, a quick squirt of lemon juice and some salt, then top either chicken or fish with the squash.”
There are plenty of other great seasonal items you should be on the lookout for this June. These are Chef Nunn’s personal favorites:
- Patty-pan squash
- Jersey tomatoes
- Raniere cherries
- Garlic scapes
- Candy stripe beets
- Cranberry beans
- Snap beans
- Ipswich clams
- Summer fluke
- Wild, striped bass
- Soft-shell crabs
- Maine lobster
[Editor’s note: Keeping a budget, especially for groceries, will allow you to start saving money, pay down bills, consolidate debt and reach your financial goals. A sound management plan can also alleviate debt. If you’re trying to cut down your spending and want to see its affect on your credit, you can get two free credit scores every month on Credit.com.]
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