Eating in Season: Good for You and Your Budget
Eating the fruits and vegetables that are in season is good for you and your budget, according to Stacy Colich, RD, LD, CDE, of St. Luke's Clinical Nutrition. "If you buy fruits and vegetables now, you can freeze or can them while they're at the peak for taste, and not artificially enhanced like the produce you get later in the winter," she says.
What's in season for fall
Fall vegetables include beets, broccoli, carrots, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and artichokes. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, swiss chard, kale and endive are also in season now. "Dark leafy greens can be cut up and frozen and added to soups in the winter," says Stacy. "But if you take Coumadin, be aware that dark leafy greens are high in vitamin K, which can interact with Coumadin." It's important to maintain healthy levels of vitamin K, so if you take Coumadin, talk to your doctor before you add a lot of vitamin K to your diet.
Fruits that are in season are apples, pears, pomegranates, figs and grapes. "With fall fruits and vegetables, it's important to eat a wide variety of both," she says. "People don't get enough fiber in their diets. Fiber reduces the risk of heart disease and can protect against certain cancers, too." Fruits and vegetables are also low in fat and calories, and there's no cholesterol, because it's not an animal product.
Freezing or canning your fall finds
Visiting your local farmer's market will get you fresh produce at their peak, and you can freeze or can them for later use. Canning seems like something grandma used to do, but it's becoming more and more popular with people who want to save the bounty from their gardens, farmer's market or "pick your own" farms. Pressure cooking, using specialty pressure equipment, and water bath canning, using large kettles, are two methods to preserve fruits and vegetables. "Some people find that water bath canning is easier and takes much less time than using a pressure cooker," says Stacy. A website called Simply Canning has clear, easy-to-follow water bath canning instructions.
Freezing is also a great way to preserve your fall produce. "Some vegetables need to be blanched before freezing," she says. "And make sure you use heavy-duty freezer bags. Get all the air out or use a vacuum sealer." The University of Nebraska – Lincoln has a handy guide to freezing vegetables, including tomatoes. To learn how to blanch vegetables for freezing, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.