The Pleasure of Local Fruits in Winter
By Sarene Marshall, The Nature Conservancy
A friend once observed about me that I “like holidays just a little bit more than the average person.” What he noticed was actually a symptom of a deeper condition I think of as “seasonally ecstatic disorder.”
While some people might get frustrated with the oppressive heat and humidity of summer or depressed at the dark and cold of winter, I revel in adjusting my activities and eating habits to the outside conditions. One manifestation of this “disorder” is my obsession with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Every year, my family is subjected to multiple trips to fields and orchards to pick local, in-season produce. As I have blogged before, doing so is good for my wallet, my waistline and my local economy.
And it’s good for the planet as well. Reducing the costs and carbon pollution associated with shipping produce from far-flung corners of the world to reach my kitchen table can have a real impact. Did you know that the maritime shipping sector alone causes about 4 percent of man-made global warming, carrying a carbon footprint equal to the entire country of Germany?
Unfortunately for me and people that share my seasonal obsessions, while soup and chili are comforting traditions, winter is a downtime for fresh fruit. But I have found a way to relive the memories of fun family outings for fresh-picked fruit by having them make an encore in my holiday plans. And, for those yearning for warm, sun-drenched days, the unbeatable taste of fruits stored at their peak of ripeness may be just the recipe for chasing away winter doldrums. (Here are some tips for freezing fresh produce.)
Here’s a run-down of the local fruits that made an appearance at my home this holiday season:
Strawberries: Around the holidays, with consumer demand spiking for “fancy” desserts, many grocery stores begin re-stocking the long-gone strawberries of spring. But, unlike their local, in-season cousins, these berries are typically white inside and tasteless. And they’ve been flown from as far as Chile, carrying a huge carbon footprint.
I bypass these offerings in favor of berries that my daughters and I picked on Mother’s Day at a farm 20 minutes from our home. Frozen away on the day they were picked in May, and bursting with juicy sweetness, these beauties were defrosted and served over chocolate pound cake on Christmas Eve.
Peaches: Nothing defines summer eating quite like juicy stone fruits, whether baked into cobblers or enjoyed straight-up with several napkins. Like the berries of spring, in addition to gorging ourselves on as many fresh peaches as we could stomach, we froze away sliced ones at their peak of freshness in July. Still other golden peaches were cooked into delicious chutney, jars of which our friends and family received as gifts this holiday season. It’s the perfect complement for hearty chicken curry or goat cheese and crackers in the winter.
Apples: Not quite as long ago as the strawberries and peaches, loads of local Fuji and Granny Smith apples entered our home, the product of our annual October visit to a Virginia orchard. Fortunately, apples can last for months in the fridge. Around the holidays, some of our still-fresh stash is baked into apple crisp for dessert or combined with cranberries in compote that tops yogurt and granola for breakfast. Still more, which we jarred into applesauce months ago, accompanied our Christmas turkey.
As much as I rejoice in all the typical winter foods and traditions at the holidays, and would have been over-the-top ecstatic with a White Christmas, remembering fun times of other seasons via their delicious fruits is a perfect holiday gift for me.
Sarene Marshall is the managing director for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Climate Change Team. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and an MA in International Studies from University of Pennsylvania, and is fluent in Spanish. Sarene, a mother of two, enjoys gardening and gourmet cooking.
(Image: Frozen strawberries. Source: Flickr user sierravalleygirl via a Creative Commons license.)