Rabbit, Rabbit! Happy March!
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Kitchen Chat, Week One: Seasonal Eating

Good Monday morning, my friends! Welcome to Kitchen Chat!

Baked apples

This will be a weekly discussion post, and our first topic will be "Seasonal Eating." I'll share my thoughts in a few moments, but first, I'd love to hear your take on this topic. How's about a cup of coffee - or perhaps tea? - and let's sit and chat a bit. If you have time, please leave your comments below and let's get the conversation rolling!

What does "seasonal eating" mean to you?

Which foods do you eat only in season, and where do you find them?

Are there foods you preserve in some way, when they're plentiful and cheap?

Are there special foods/dishes you serve your family through the year in celebration of certain holidays or events?

How are the changing seasons reflected in your kitchen - through food and/or decor?


Now, seasonal eating, to me, means ... 

Thanks 23

1. Eating food in its natural season.

2. Celebrating liturgical seasons/annual events with special foods.

3. Setting a seasonal "stage" in my kitchen. 


I love feeding my family produce at its peak when it's available locally - apples in autumn, peaches in July, corn in late summer, etc. - and as much as logistically possible, I try to do that. If we want strawberries in March, well ... tough. Lol. Actually, frozen or otherwise preserved would do in a pinch, but nothing beats a June strawberry picked fresh at the farm. It's a summertime joy not to be missed ...

Foods we try to eat only in season: corn, tomatoes, strawberries/raspberries, melon, winter/summer squash, peaches/plums, cranberries.

That said - any of those items, except for the melon, can and should be enjoyed frozen or canned/dried year-round. But still - frozen kernels are a far cry from a fresh ear from the farm! Steamed or grilled and slathered with butter ... perhaps eaten outside? Mmmm - perfection! And canned tomatoes really have nothing on a sliced garden fresh beefsteak ...

I'm not going to deprive my children of corn or tomatoes through the year, but I do want them to get a sense for what grows when, and eating by the seasons is a great way to do that.

So how do we figure out what's in season when? Well, it's easy enough to look up that information online, but asking at your local farm/farmstand is a way to get the most personalized information. As for how to best cook produce at its peak - again, I'd say ask your farmer! There are also wonderful cookbooks devoted to seasonal foods ... one of my favorites is Jamie at Home. It's a British book so the seasons are perhaps slightly off, but it's just lovely all the same. Another book I love for seasonal eating and menu planning is The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. I've had it for years (as in, since high school!) and I've always found it very inspiring.

Now, if you live in an area with lots of local farms/stands, well, you're golden when it comes to eating seasonal foods. Or perhaps you grow your own - even better! If you live in a more urbanized area, there are farmer's markets and CSA's to join. For a few summers several years ago we belonged to a local CSA (community supported agriculture) and what a wonderful experience that was! We received such a thorough education in seasonal eating and learning to adapt to the whims of the growing season. In New England for instsance, that means lots and lots of greens to start, before finally - finally - seeing some color. Early rhubarb, onions and strawberries. But you know ...

"Limits are a tonic to the soul."

I think that quote is from Mittenstrings for God by Katrina Kenison (fyi - that's another post series I did a while back ... might be nice to revisit that) and I think it applies nicely to seasonal eating. Yes, we have to limit ourselves if we stick to eating only (or mostly) what's in season, but how wonderful it feels to eat those foods when they're meant to be eaten. We are truly nourishing our souls as well as our bodies.


And then there's a second type of seasonal eating, the kind that has more to do with tying food into our own family experiences ... holidays, feast days, special events and the like. Celebrating a special day on the calendar with food is a simple yet meaningful way to create family memories.

For instance, blackberries at Michaelmas ...

Michaelmas jam 4

 Shortbread on St. Andrew's Day ...

Saint andrew 1

Fresh eggs on the vernal equinox ...

Fresh eggs 1

Green tomato relish (aka picallili) on Labor Day ...

Picalilli jars 

And ... wassail on the winter solstice, shepherd's pie on St. Brigid's Day, pancakes on Mardi Gras, soda bread on St. Patrick's Day, hot cross buns on Good Friday, autumn veg soup on the harvest moon, homemade donuts on Halloween, etc. 

Clearly there are many opportunities throughout the year to celebrate faith, family - life! - and the very seasons themselves with food of all kinds. It's easy enough to weave these things into our daily life - though it's also quite easy to let opportunities slip by. We're all busy and time does fly ... but I find brainstorming broad notes for a season and then planning more specifically for each week very helpful. It's also convenient to have a separate file (or binder) for keeping these particular special recipes at hand.

I love both kinds of seasonal eating! (I love seasons, period, as you can tell.) Eating seasonally in this way - whether we're drawing from nature or the liturgical calendar - creates a rhythm in our family's year and lovely memories our children. And that's the bottom line for me ... it's all for them, after all. :)


Ok, finally - and I know I'm really rambling on here - I want to touch upon a third aspect of seasonal eating ... which is creating a sense of season in our kitchen, the very heart of our home. And this is very easy to do ...

Advent joy bowls

Displaying special dishes we use only at certain times of the year ...


Setting a bowl full of seasonal produce on the table ...

Easter 8

Using table linens that represent the colors of the landscape ...

Easter candle

And candles that look (or perhaps smell) just right for the season. 

Other ideas ... seasonal items perched on the windowsill (plants, knicknacks, framed prints, cards), background music, pretty lights and garlands here and there ... making things that smell like the season, too. Warm gingerbread at Christmas, cinnamon and citrus in the dead of winter, fresh roses in the heat of summer ....

I guess it's all about feeding the senses, isn't it?


Before I go, here's a list of produce in season for March and April. It's for New England, but I think it's pretty general ... though obviously it won't apply to everyone.

March >> humble roots & keepers, a few early spring treats << April

potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnip, apples, pears, cabbages, onions, winter squash, maple syrup, leeks, fiddleheads, asparagus, chives, radishes, dandelions, rhubarb

What am I looking forward to most? Well, I would have to say rhubarb. Rhubarb is so fleeting and it comes at that time of year when we're just dying for spring - and we're so very nearly there! My first rhubarb dish of the  year (most likley a grunt) is always a sweet celebration of spring - in flavor and feel!


Ok, I'm done now, lol. Boy that was a long post - I hope it made sense! We must be on our third cup of coffee by now ...

Although I clearly have a lot to say on the subject, I would love to hear your take on seasonal eating (see my questions far, far above at the top of this post) ... but please don't feel you have to follow these questions or write as much as I do - even just a quick note would be welcome!

And I'm not entirely decided on next week's topic, so I'm still open to suggestion. Let me know what you'd like to discuss next!

And, as always, I'll see you here again very soon ...