Imagine Thanksgiving dinner with casserole made from crunchy green beans, sauce made from ripe cranberries, and creamed corn made from kernels picked at their peak sugar levels. With a few extra hours of preparation and planning, this could be the reality for next November. Many fruits and vegetables, from peas to peaches, are safe to store for several months when frozen or canned. This enables in-season produce to sustain a whole second-life following its harvest. Compared to produce purchased out-of-season, or those frozen or packaged by commercial companies, in-season produce has both better flavor and higher levels of nutrients.
Crops like corn and tomatoes have the highest level of sugars when they are given time to ripen naturally. Many people believe they don’t like tomatoes at all, but it’s more likely that they don’t like the mealy, light-pink variety they find in a supermarket. Potatoes are also given a bad reputation for being a starchy vegetable with little purpose besides being a vehicle for ketchup, but a fresh potato has almost half of your daily vitamin C needs. In general, eating nutritious foods are critical for overall health, preventing disease, and protecting your immune system. Stored produce can be used for anything from smoothies to soups. And vegetables canned at home are likely to have less added sodium, sugar, and saturated fats. It is also important to remember that most produce does need some processing before being frozen or canned, such as blanching, peeling, or steaming.
Apart from nutrition, buying in-season produce can support local farms, protect farmland, and boost local economies. If you’re lucky enough to have a small, local farm in your area, you can also have a better idea of what farming practices they use like whether they are organic or not, or whether they grow GMO seeds or not. Getting food right from the farmer can also be cheaper, and if you plan on storing some you can buy in bulk.
A great resource for learning about what kind of in-season options you have in your area is the . Here, you can see a list of produce options from prickly pears to crickets to maple syrup. Each product has an introductory paragraph, fun facts, what to look for when buying, sustainability, seasonality, geographic distribution, nutrition, and methods for storing, cooking, and preserving. With the most productive harvest times just around the corner, now is a great time to start planning on where to buy in-season, local foods and how to preserve them for next Thanksgiving!