Eating seasonally not only improves your chances of getting high-quality, fresh produce, it can also save you money. Perhaps more importantly, eating seasonally helps keep your body in harmony with your environment. The traditional Hindu practice of ayurveda’s term for eating seasonally is “ritucharya.”
Across Europe and North America, the CSA movement that began in the eighties has made fresh local produce available locally through member shares and farmer’s markets. There are also opportunities for individuals to rent garden plots at community gardens, making it possible for gardeners and non-gardeners alike to enjoy the benefits of seasonal eating.
As Spring gives way to summer, tender greens like lettuce and arugula give way to a variety of more hearty produce; but don’t let a lack of lettuce deprive you of fresh, light, and locally-grown salads. These seven salads offer creative ways to serve seasonal produce every day of the week.
Fattoush (purslane salad)
- 1 bunch of purslane
- 2 fresh cucumbers
- Medium bunch of parsley
- A few sprigs of fresh mint
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 ripe (or sundried) tomato
- pitted olives
- Optional add-ons: pita bits for authentic fattoush, cooked whole grains (for a healthier option), chickpeas (for a bit of protein)
- Prepare the purslane by separating into small bits of stem with leaves, or take leaves only. Check for leaf-miners (the only pest common to this nutritious wild edible).
- Cut the cucumbers into half rounds.
- Dice the tomato
- Remove the stems and finely chop the parsley leaves.
- Mince the onion
- Combine everything in a large bowl and mix with olive oil and lemon juice.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Kale and farro
While lettuce often bolts (goes to flower) when the temperature rises, kale can hang on well into the warmer months. Commonly considered a cooking green, kale can be quite delicious, and more nutritious, raw.
- ½ cup farro, or other whole, ancient grain
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 crispy apple
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup goat cheese
- ½ red onion
- Cook the farro as you would rice, or with a bouillon cube for flavor.
- Slice and saute onion in olive oil until tender.
- Remove stems from the kale leaves, tear into bite-size bits, and massage with olive oil in a large bowl.
- Toast the walnuts on low heat.
- Dice the apple.
- Crumble the goat cheese.
- Add all ingredients into the large bowl and mix with the kale
Ribboned summer squash
This salad comes from a Swiss couple that visited us when I happened to be up to my ears in zucchinis. A good rule for harvesting your summer squash is to “pick quick,” when they are small and tender, unless you plan to scoop the seeds out and stuff them.
Ingredients (serves four)
- 1 8-10 inch zucchini or other summer squash
- Juice of 1 lime
- Hard or semi-hard cheese like romano or asiago
- Fresh cilantro (or basil if you are a cilantro-hater)
- Olive oil
- Use a peeler or a mandoline to slice the squash lengthwise into thin ribbons, directly onto serving plates.
- Drizzle with lime and olive oil.
- Using the peeler again, top with cheese shavings.
- Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve directly.
Cucumber with dill
Eating seasonally could never be easier. Crunchy and refreshing, this favorite from Sweden is like a quick pickle without the sour flavor. Similar to zucchinis, cucumbers are best picked before their seeds start to develop and the skin gets tough.
- 2 fresh cucumbers, sliced into rounds
- 2 tsp salt
- Small bunch of dill, chopped
- Slice the cucumbers into thin rounds.
- Mix with salt in a medium bowl.
- Place a weight on the cucumbers (a smaller bowl filled with water works well).
- Refrigerate for 1-2 hours
- Drain off the salt and water that will have been pulled from the cukes.
- Toss in the dill, and enjoy chilled.
I still recall this amazing dish from my first trip to Italy long ago — an incredibly simple salad, best made with fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes, still warm from the sun.
- 2 or 3 ripe tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Basil leaves
- Slice the tomatoes into thick half-rounds
- Drizzle with your best olive oil
- Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and fresh basil slivers
- Enjoy with just about anything.
Green beans and potato salad
- 3 lbs of potatoes, cooked and diced
- 1 pound of green beans, stems removed, cut into 1 ½ inch lengths
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt
- Red onion, minced
- Fresh or dried Italian herbs (Oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram)
- Cook potatoes in salted water until tender, and dice when they are cool enough to handle
- Steam fresh green beans until just tender, cool under running water
- Make a small pool of dressing in the bottom of a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. The potatoes absorb a lot, so don’t make it too small!
- Mix the green beans and potatoes into the dressing and serve at room temperature for best flavor.
Swiss chard and mango with beet ginger dressing
- 1 bunch swiss chard
- 2 ripe mangos
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 fresh (or dried) cayenne pepper or other chili
- 1 small beet, peeled and cooked
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 scallions, chopped
- Tear bite size bits off the chard stems.
- Use a peeler to remove the mango skin
- Working one side at a time, slice lengthwise towards the pit in ½ inch strips, then slice across those once or twice.
- Cut along the pit for uniform slices.
- With a blender, puree the cooked beet, scallion and ginger with the liquid seasonings plus a half cup of water. The dressing will be thick and will color the mango to look like peaches.
- Toss the chard and mango with enough dressing to coat them.
- Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds and a sprig of Thai basil.
Summer is the perfect time to get into the habit of eating seasonally. Start now and your body will thank you next week!