Epicurious Launches Seasonal Ingredient Map
Recently the popular recipe site Epicurious launched a new tool for eco-conscious home cooks who are interested in adding more local, seasonal produce to their diets. Their interactive Seasonal Ingredient Map of the United States shows a list of seasonal produce for each month in each of the 50 states. Users can then click on a selection from that list to find a list of recipes on the site that feature each fresh fruit or vegetable.
For example, if a user selects the state of Missouri and the month of June, the Epicurious tool lists apricots, beets, broccoli, cherries, cauliflower, gooseberries, leeks, radishes, rhubarb as seasonal picks. Select leeks from that list, then click view recipes, and the site provides a list of Epicurious recipes that include leeks as an ingredient.
The tool is far from encyclopedic (for example, as a Missourian, I happen to know that fresh lettuce, basil, sage and peas are available right now in my own backyard garden, but none of those June edibles made the Epicurious list).
Experienced, highly dedicated locavores may also scoff at the fact that the Seasonal Ingredient Map doesn’t show what’s seasonal in specific regions within a state — the seasonal availability of fresh locally grown produce can vary greatly in different parts of a state, especially in large states like Texas or California. And the tool seems to only offer general advice on what produce ought to be available in a state at certain times of year — not what produce may actually be available any given year due to ever-changeable weather conditions. (Early summer heat may bring early tomatoes; a spring flood may mean a later-than-usual corn harvest, etc.)
Still, as a quick, easy way to come up with general ideas for a farmer’s market shopping list, or put together an eco-friendly, seasonable dinner plan, the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map certainly looks useful. And the Seasonal Produce Map could serve as a good general educational tool for people who are looking for a quick introduction to the locavore lifestyle and the basics of seasonal eating.
Photo Credit: Autumn Red Peaches, USDA. Public domain.
When a cook in Chicago buys supermarket oranges in February, that fruit isn’t coming from Illinois. In winter, oranges have to be shipped to Chicago shoppers from a warmer state — Florida or Texas, for example — or in some cases another country, like Mexico. Shipping food across several hundred miles requires a lot of energy to power trucks, trains, and storage refrigerators. And most of that energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which creates pollution that contribute to climate change. And foods that must survive being shipped long distances are also sometimes treated with chemicals — like petroleum-based waxes or chemical fungicides — to keep them looking fresh.
Seasonal, locally grown produce, on the other hand, travels a much shorter distance from field to plate. This means local produce often has a smaller carbon footprint than produce imported from afar. And since local produce is usually fresher than imported produce, it requires less preservation, less refrigeration, and tends to lasts longer once you take it home, reducing food waste.
Beyond helping the environment, buying locally grown produce also supports the local economy and helps keep small, family-run farms in business. And, as anyone who has eaten a fresh strawberry or apple just picked from the field or the tree can tell you, super fresh seasonal produce just tastes better than produce that has spent the last few weeks (or months) in storage.
It’s much easier to find fresh, locally grown produce if you already have a general understanding of what locally grown produce ought to be available in your state at any given time of year. So if you’d like to try eating more seasonal produce, but currently don’t know whether local peaches ripen in June or September, give the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map a try.
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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons