As National Nutrition Month gets underway, I’m daydreaming about the first delicious nutritional treasures of spring — spicy radishes — and then my thoughts turn into gratitude for our local farmers.
While March is still snowy and cold, farmers are already hard at work, mostly outdoors for long hours, preparing to grow the treasures of tomorrow: local produce.
Not wanting to have the farmers’ hard work go to waste, I tend to stock up my freezer in the fall to extend the season of bounty.
Now on a cold day, I’m layered in comfortable clothing and spring-cleaning the freezer when I strike gold!
Pink and cheerful strawberries, frozen and forgotten from last year’s strawberry season. Time loves the freezer, and so do I, especially right now as it divulges frozen Michigan berries just in time to soothe my winter doldrums — one strawberry smoothie, muffin or sauce at a time.
Thank you farmers (and my freezer).
Keeping tabs on what’s in the freezer and other food inventory reduces food waste, uses up things my family likes, and takes some of the guesswork out of what to eat for dinner.
I found some soup I froze back in November — looks like dinner is planned: soup with added beans and pasta.
I like to cycle foods out of the freezer over the course of at most four months for leftovers and at most eight months for fresh frozen produce, grains and some meats.
Discovering all the ingredients on hand to make a quick Michigan berry crisp on a Sunday in late February feels like a terrific win! And what tastier way to celebrate National Nutrition Month? Thank you, farmers (and freezer).
Frozen local produce is a nutrition superstar because freezing helps retain nutrients.
Frozen berries, for example, are a great way to reflect back on the joys of summer and also get the kind of nourishment that’s so beneficial during cold and flu season.
Another tradition our family has during National Nutrition Month is deciding whether or not we will join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription with a local farm for the upcoming season.
I enjoy how a CSA share offers a variety of the freshest produce and other fun products like honey, eggs, meats, and breads chosen based on the growing season. I also appreciate knowing the growers in my community.
I’m also happy with the farmers market online ordering system and the anticipation of a trip to a farmers market. It’s flexible and has been working great for my family.
Choosing both a CSA and farm-market shopping might be the best and most nutritious way to go for us this year.
Choosing to eat more locally is beneficial to the environment, our personal health and the health of the community (both physical and financial).
During National Nutrition Month, consider taking some time to do a home inventory, get to know what you have on hand, make room for the local bounty to come (more deliciously nutritious berries!) and consider all the ways to thank farmers (and freezers ).
Paula Martin, MS RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the Community Nutrition Policy Specialist with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. She leads the Farms, Food & Health project connecting the dots between local food, healthcare and wellness. Learn more about eating locally at groundworkcenter.org/food-farming/.