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Eating Seasonally and Locally

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All CSA's promote eating in season and making a connection from where your food comes from (locally as much as possible).

Here is a great excerpt from: Asparagus To Zucchini, A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce which covers all the bases on eating locally and in season.

From MACSAC"S Foodbook

Food for Thought: Reorganizing Your Time and Reorienting Your Talents for Regional and Seasonal Eating

Nancy Lee Bentley

Eating practices have changed dramatically in this country from what they were a mere 50 or so years ago. These days, food comes from faraway sources, whereas in the past, people ate what was grown, for the most part, within a local region. How can we get back in touch with our food and reconnect with the land on which food is grown? One place to start is to reduce the amount of packaged and processed food in our diets and to eat fresh, locally grown food instead. In northern regions, with their long, harsh winters, eating locally grown food implies developing a seasonal palate, where the food prepared changes with the seasons. But can one eat fresh, seasonal food—all year round—in the north? What about the winter?

Seasonal eating, particularly in northern climates, requires a slight adjustment in what and how you eat. In Wisconsin, for example, vitamin-C will probably come from tomatoes, cabbage, or rose hips instead of orange juice. You may eat lots of greens in spring, and a lot of squash in the fall. You may find yourself preserving food during the summer, instead of buying frozen vegetables at the grocery store in the winter.

There is no doubt that this way of eating requires more of you: more thought, commitment, time, and active participation. But it gives back more as well: more taste, vitality, heritage, well-being, and reconnection with source and self. The key to getting back more from your food is to make the decision to take responsibility for your food choices and eating habits.

Managing a Seasonal Diet

A key part of managing a seasonal diet is plarming. Before you start cooking, devise a food plan. Whether you are in a CSA, gardening for yourself, or just taking advantage of buying direct from local farmers' markets, make a master plan as a guide to help you organize your food year. You will have to set aside time for processing excess produce from the spring, summer, and fall seasons, which means you have to know when certain foods are harvested (ask your farmer for estimates). Decide whether you will be making and freezing pesto, canning tomatoes, or pickling cucumbers. Do you plan on making summertime strawberry jam and fall raspberry jam for holiday gifts? Do you want to have a freezer full of zucchini bread ready for unexpected visitors?

Creating a plan will provide you with a map that can even out the peaks and valleys of seasonal supply. For my plan, I construct a simple grid ts chart with months down the left column and food headings along the top. I insert the type and quantity of specific foods that I expect over the harvest season. The chart also includes my food processing and preserving plans. I also use this chart to make monthly and weekly plans for meals.

Another key step to managing a seasonal diet is procuring the tools and equipment needed to enjoy and stock a seasonal larder. A food processor with detachable blades is ideal for slicing and chopping vegetables. A work bowl and S-shaped knife are the best tools for making pestos and herb pastes, for grinding and pureeing herbs, vegetables, and fruits for sauces, and for preparing condiments such as chutneys, jams, butters, and salsas. Other indispensable items include canning jars and kettles, dehydrators, and barrels, crates, and baskets for root cellaring.

Once the equipment is in place, it is important to preserve the quality and integrity of your harvest by careful and timely handling and storage. Observe proper temperatures and make sure to cool produce quickly after harvest to maintain vitality and freshness. Plan ahead so that you can process (freeze, dry, store, or can) produce as soon as you get it, thereby preserving the flavor, vitality, quality, and nutrition of your finished products.

Once processed or readied for storage, dry food (for example, dry beans and dehydrated vegetables and grains) should be kept in dry, airtight containers. Moist foods, like lettuce and fresh herbs, should be washed and kept moist by misting and/or storing in containers. Some CSA growers provide cotton bags with drawstrings for leafy greens. These reusable bags can be misted. You can also make your own bags to store the harvest.

Get your produce into the refrigerator as soon as possible, since heat and light always reduce shelf life and freshness. To learn more about optimum temperature and storage conditions for various food items, consult standard recipe books or food processing manuals such as Stocking Up, Managing Your Personal Food Supply, or Gardening for Maximum Nutrition.

Prepare meals with a new perspective. Instead of thinking about meals as individual units or challenges, start working with a plan to prepare meals for larger blocks of time, such as a week. Organize your time and thinking so that you are prepared to do bulk cooking in advance of mealtimes. For example, plan blocks of time on the weekends or evenings when you can prepare components of several meals. If your family likes chicken on Sundays, roast several at once and use leftovers for salads, soups, stews, and casseroles. Freeze packets of chicken so that it can later be incorporated into quick tacos, enchiladas, or crepes. Make extra gravy or sauce, which can be frozen for future use. Make soup stock from the bones at the same time, throwing together a soup for early in the week that needs only to be reheated when you get home.

For vegetarian meals, cook big pots of beans and then season smaller portions for different meals. Soak beans overnight to reduce cooking time. Likewise, soak or cook grains like brown rice for several meals. Making chili while processing tomatoes isn't that much more work. Doing your cooking in batches like this will make day-to-day meal preparation easier and you a much more organized, efficient, and satisfied cook.

One other important thing to remember is to uncook in the summer. Pot meals like soups, stews, crockpot meals, and casseroles are easy and efficient cold~weather fare. In the summer, however, salads are readily available and easily prepared. Crisp, fresh, raw salads are cooling and quick to fix—just what a body can use when the temperature is sweltering. To prepare a satisfying meal, add some grains and nuts or dense protein as a condiment, and use lots of herbs and whatever-you-have-on-hand vegetables in the salad.

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