There’s something beautiful about the shifts in nature that occur from one season to another.
How does a grey and muddy winter morph into the prosperous green of spring? It happens one little sprout and one sunbeam at a time. As the days get gradually warmer and longer, spring is preparing herself for a bountiful production of fruits and vegetables. It’s now our duty to respect this beautiful produce by making delicious dishes out of them.
Why Eating in Season is Important
Much like how mother nature has cycles and seasons, so do our bodies. In Jolene Hart’s book “Eat Pretty,” she introduces each new season by explaining why our bodies need in-season crops for optimal health. She goes on to say, “Spring is our season for detoxification, and the liver and the gallbladder, two essential, detoxifying organs, are the organs we will support in the months ahead.”
The best way to sync your body with mother nature’s bounty is to seek in-season foods that are packed with nutrients our bodies need at the moment. And the most eco-friendly way to go about getting the in-season produce is to head to your local farmer’s markets or roadside stands.
Lettuce Leaf Winter Behind
The first crops you can look out for are different types of lettuces. Butterhead, romaine, red and green oakleaf and red lolla rosa are all common types grown in Georgia.
Take advantage of these tender leaves that are waiting to be adorned with the dressing of your choice. And don’t worry about your dressing being rich or fatty — vegetables commonly found in salads are essentially fat-free and are a source of healthy carotenoids. But in order for these carotenoids to be absorbed by the human digestive system, fat is needed.
The saying “there’s no new thing under the sun” is also true for the topic of eating in-season. In fact, eating a salad before the main dish is a delightful tradition that dates to the 81-96 AD reign of Domitian. Most often, the lettuce leaves were cooked and served with an oil-and-vinegar dressing. Smaller leaves were sometimes eaten raw. Post-Roman Europe continued the tradition of poaching lettuces, mainly large romaine types, as well as the method of pouring a hot oil-and-vinegar mixture over the leaves. It’s amazing how eating habits survive the test of time.
If you’re not one for eating a raw vegetable salad, do as the Romans did, and opt for a warm spinach salad or soup recipe as a way to consume spring lettuce.
Don’t Suffer – Try a Succotash
Another way to enjoy several vegetables at a time is to take note from the indigenous Americans, who created the dish called succotash. The stew was introduced to the colonists in the 17th century and is now a staple dish for many parts of the country.
This stew contains many seeds, edible pods and shoots, such as sweet corn, lima beans, pole beans and snap peas. In Georgia, these veggies are in peak season in the month of May.
A traditional succotash must include tomatoes, sweet corn and lima beans or another type of shell bean. It’s also okay to customize it as your own and add in some other ingredients, such as shrimp, potatoes, andouille sausage, onions or okra.
If you were to add potatoes, Georgia’s very own Irish potato would be ideal. An Irish potato is a thin-skinned potato, grown as far South as Keysville all the way up to Rabun Gap. Irish potatoes are ideal in a succotash recipe, due to their firm shape. Not into succotash? An Irish potato is also great roasted, mashed, boiled or fried.
Enjoy the Fruits of Nature
While the vegetables options are plentiful as the weather warms up, the fruit options are also ripe for picking. Strawberries, nectarines, peaches and blackberries are the most common fruits grown in Georgia. Pies, cobblers or crisps — it doesn’t matter, as long as the main ingredient is fresh, in-season berries.
Because the process of making crisps and cobblers is so easy, these desserts have become a go-to option for many Southerners. The cobbler was created by settlers in the British colonies out of necessity, when they improvised with what they had on hand: in-season berries, which were then stewed down to a smoother texture and topped with a layer of uncooked plain biscuits, scone batter or dumplings.
Another option for enjoying seasonal fruit is to simply wash it, slice it up and serve it over vanilla ice cream — a simple dessert that will never disappoint.
Whatever you decide to cook or bake with your spring produce, remember to take in this season as slowly as possible. Springtime in Southern Georgia is short-lived, as the long, hot Summer is always waiting to take its place.
Written by: Esther Curry