“Eating is an agricultural act.”
Spring, contrary to what the groundhog predicted, has sprung. Daffodils are blooming, peepers are peeping, hens are laying more eggs, and I’m itching to get into my garden to get some peas planted. Most of us who strive to eat with the seasons are passionate about food. Good food. Healthy food. Local food.
Eating with the seasons may seem intimidating at first: “What do you mean tomatoes aren’t in season in December? But, Kroger has them all year!” That may be so, as well as asparagus in the fall. If you’ve never had fresh, local asparagus, you don’t know what you are missing! But, I digress. While I grew up on a farm, our eating wasn’t seasonal. Oh, sure, we had Black Seeded Simpson lettuce and fresh sweet corn in the summer and all sorts of canned tomato products and green beans in the winter. But, I wouldn’t classify my family as seasonal eaters.
For me, it wasn’t until a lifestyle change in my early twenties that prompted me to learn about seasonal eating. We began going to Farmers Markets, joined a CSA, and read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Since then, I’ve been collecting cookbooks aimed at seasonal eating, so I thought I’d give you some of my favorites.
Simply in Season is *the* seasonal cookbook. If you wanted to add just one book to your collection, this is it! Mary Beth Lind, one of the authors, hails from Philippi. So, not only is the cookbook fantastic, it also has a local author! The new tenth anniversary addition has a foreward written by Stephen Hopp, who is Barbara Kingsolver’s husband. This cookbook was a big part of their year of growing their own and eating locally. My family’s favorites are the Blueberry Coffee Cake and Hot German Green Bean Salad. The book is organized seasonally and also has a fantastic index organized by ingredient.
I stumbled upon Recipes from a Kitchen Garden while reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as it was another cookbook that provided inspiration on their local food journey. I find this book fantastic as it has not only fruits and vegetables, but also herbs and edible flowers. The Fresh Tomato Corn Soup is summer in a bowl!
The Farmers Market Cookbook is new to my collection, but I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and description – “The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Fresh, Local, Seasonal Produce.” I have several recipes marked to try. One is Butternut Squash with Vanilla and Curry. It seems to be an odd combination, but I am willing to bet it’s delicious!
The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook by Eliot Coleman and his wife Barbara Damrosch is another beautiful guide to true seasonal eating. Eliot is the pioneer of the winter gardening movement and has developed ways of producing and eating from his farm in Maine year round. The Baked Spaghetti Squash with Cheese was a hit for my husband and I, but this book also has recipes for those lesser known greens such as mache.
I found The Farm while watching Ian Knauer’s show with the same name. Ian is a chef and farmer in Pennsylvania who traveled the world with Gourmet magazine before realizing the best food is local, regional food. If you’re the adventurous type, he has a step by step guide on roasting a whole pig. I’m looking forward to trying the Cocoa-Zucchini Cake this summer. And a good spring dish – Ramp Tagliatelle.
John and Mollie at Jennings Brae Bank Farm introduced me to Farmer John’s Cookbook. Another fantastic book, laid out by both season and vegetable. There is also a guide to common vegetables and storage guidelines. Since it was written with his CSA in mind, it has a lot of great tips and tricks for using up seasonal produce. Chard with Sweet and Sour Ginger Sauce is a great side dish and I think I might get adventurous this summer and try the Basil Cheesecake.
As a homeschooling family, we are at the library A LOT. So, I tend to check out cookbooks with a relative frequency. Most I just glance through and send back. Fresh From the Farm is one that I had to buy for my home shelves. A cookbook with seven butternut squash recipes? Yes, please! There are also eleven recipes for salad dressings and vinaigrettes.
Most of the cookbooks have desserts included, but Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts is a comprehensive fruit dessert lovers dream. How does a cobbler sound? Roasted fruits? Galettes? And there are five cake recipes to top with seasonal fruit. It truly has something for everyone.
I read cookbooks for fun at night before bed and I really love a cookbook that can tell me a story. With local food cookbooks, there is almost always a story. Why the author chose a certain green bean variety or what significance a dish might have played in their family – it’s all there. So, I invite you to pick up one of these cookbooks. I promise you won’t be sorry – and you will probably grow to love seasonal eating even more. Do you have your own favorite seasonal cookbook? Let us know!
And don’t forget – the St. Patrick’s Day Market is Sunday, March 12 from 11-2 inside the Bridgeport Conference Center. Wear your green and come out to support our local farmers and artisans.