In-Season Foods

Featured Article, How-To, In Season
on August 10, 2011
Marinated Carrot Salad
Mark Boughton/styling: Teresa Blackburn

“This isn’t about hardship,” says Steve Allison-Bunnell, “It’s about a different kind of abundance.” Steve is talking about the way he and his wife, Jodi, feed themselves and their son, Camas. Steve and Jodi are part of a community supported agriculture group (CSA), called the Grubshed.

In a CSA, people buy shares in a farm and, in return, receive a share of the produce every week. The Grubshed folks strive to eat as locally as possible. They arranged with a local CSA, Garden City Harvest, for an organic farm that grew not only summer crops but also an abundance of winter storage vegetables. Other couples and families, including the authors, share in this healthy organic garden.

The harvest starts out modestly and grows into a generous collection of crops that can fill two large grocery bags weekly by the end of summer. When the abundant winter shares are ready, members store the harvest in basements, root cellars, and even closets.
Americans have gotten used to eating tomatoes in January and apples in June; we can buy almost any fruit or vegetable at any time. But the flavor is rarely if ever as good as in local, in-season produce, and the cost to both the environment and the pocketbook for this kind of seasonless eating is high.

The Allison-Bunnells have made a conscious choice to savor produce in its local season and to preserve as much as possible for winter storage. This means considerable work in the kitchen during harvest time, but results in great personal satisfaction.   And in the winter, the convenience is all theirs, with trips to the basement for jars of beautiful canned peaches or for onions and potatoes rather than drives to the grocery store on icy streets. Not only that, the Allison-Bunnells spend less on their organic diet than the average American family spends on conventional food from the supermarket.

And, as Steve points out, the benefits are sensory as well.  “After ten months without cantaloupe,” he says, “That first bite into a vine-ripened local melon is fabulous. Underripe melons shipped from Mexico in the winter just don’t compare.”
Jodi keeps track of how their food budget is spent. About sixty percent goes for products from within that 250 mile radius. The family enjoys locally raised lamb, pork, grass fed beef, and truly free range chicken, as well as local fruits and vegetables. The other forty percent goes for things like coffee, canned tuna, nuts, organic sugar, and spices.

When the family sat down to lunch while I was visiting, they ate pasta made in Great Falls, Montana, served in homemade sauce from Grubshed ingredients, Grubshed beans, and sausage made in Missoula from local pork.   Only the olive oil and some spices came from outside their Grubshed. And who could imagine a tastier, more healthful lunch?

—By Dorothy Pantent; Recipe by Greg Patent