The Paleo diet emphasizes eating seasonally and including foods in your diet that are grown at the same time of the year that you eat them. This could mean eating squashes in the summer and fall, and artichokes in the spring and berries in the summer.
At first glance, eating seasonally may seem simple. Buy, cook and eat those foods that are being grown and harvested at that time of the year. There are real benefits to eating foods that are available at their peak right now. Eating seasonally is important and carries benefits to your health, the planet, and your wallet. Seasonally fresh produce is picked when ripe and fully developed. The plant has had more sun exposure, which means it will have higher levels of antioxidants!
Chef Pete even wrote an entire cookbook about eating Paleo by Season!
If you find yourself unfamiliar with what seasonal foods are available where you live, it is not too difficult to find out. Take a quick glance around the produce section of your grocery store. Pay attention to the way prices are trending. Have you noticed that berries, peaches, nectarines, and other stone fruit get really expensive at the end of fall? Or that the ones that are available look so much less appealing and appetizing than they did during the spring? That is always a good indicator. Another good indicator is an abundance of something specific, and it is either on sale or very affordable – swwet potatoes in the colder months are a good example.
It also helps to try to purchase locally grown produce. This means you are getting foods that are seasonal, fresh, and support local farmers and businesses in your community. This is easy to do by shopping at a nearby farmer's market or food co-op, or supporting a local farm by signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project.
You could also order some Pete's Paleo meals which are all carefully and lovingly locally and seasonally sourced.
You might be of the impression that cooler months the worst time for produce. Think again. A bountiful array of vegetables is at its most flavorful in the colder months of the year, and many of the vegetables you typically associate with fall continue their seasons well into winter.
Plenty of vegetables positively thrive during this time. Some of our favorites that you will find in our meals include:
Allium Bulbs (Onions, Shallots, Garlic)
The papery skins of these aromatics help the flavorful bulbs withstand long storage times. They are a boon in winter, when they can be roasted or caramelized for tasty garnishes, toppings, and fillings
Choosing: Check all to make sure they look dry and show no signs of molding. Give them a firm squeeze to make sure they don’t have soft spots. Avoid any that feel soft or have begun to sprout.
Storing: Never put onions, shallots, or garlic in the fridge, where the humidity can cause them to soften and mold. Instead, store them in a bowl or basket at room temperature. Keep them away from the potatoes, too; both vegetables release moisture into the air, which can cause spoiling.
These cool-weather lovers can withstand light frosts and are harvested throughout the winter in milder climates. They are delicious roasted and can be grated just like carrots for salads.
Choosing: Choose small- to medium-size beets that feel firm and show no signs of wrinkling. Bright, vibrant greens are an added bonus as they can be used like Swiss chard or spinach (and are a sign that the beets were recently harvested). Avoid beets that are smaller than a large radish; they will be hard to peel.
Storing: Remove any greens immediately, and refrigerate beets in a breathable paper bag until ready to use. Trimmed beets that are kept cool and dry will remain fresh and firm for several weeks.
Also called Chinese cabbage, leafy bok choy comes in a wide range of sizes. The mild flavor and quick cooking time make it a staple in stir-frys, and it is also delicious grilled, steamed, or added to an Asian-style soup.
Choosing: Look for full, firm, unblemished leaves and no signs of dampness or browning at the stem.
Storing: Bok choy will keep up to five days in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Remove any plastic wrapping before storage to prevent moisture buildup.
Like other cruciferous vegetables that are so readily available they seem season-less broccoli grows best in cool temperatures, which keep it tender and sweet and prevent the stalks from bolting and going to flower.
Choosing: Pick broccoli heads with hard, firm stems, tight florets, and no yellowing anywhere. The cut end of the stem should look fresh, not dry.
Storing: Refrigerate whole broccoli heads immediately and use within three to five days. Alternatively, cut the heads into ready-to-use florets and store in a paper towel-lined container for up to three days.
Although they are available year-round, Brussels sprouts used to be a fall and winter delicacy. The key to keeping them delicious (and winning over Brussels sprouts haters) is not to overcook them. Roasting (perhaps with some bacon) is a good way to do that.
Choosing: Brussels sprouts are sold loose, bagged, and still on the stalk. Select sprouts that are similar in size (for even cooking) and vibrant green with tight heads of leaves. When buying pre-bagged Brussels sprouts, avoid packages with collected moisture inside, which is a sign they have been on the shelf a while.
Storing: Remove from packaging or cut off stem, and refrigerate in a bowl or lidded container for three to five days.
Red, white, Napa, Savoy—all cabbage varieties are cool-weather vegetables that taste sweeter when the temperatures drop. The ultra-versatile vegetable adds taste and texture to slaws, salads, soups, and stews.
Choosing: Look for firm cabbage heads with no droopy or missing leaves; these are a sign of an older vegetable. Smell it. A sulfurous, cabbage-y scent means the head has been in cold storage a while and may taste pungent or bitter.
Storing: A whole cabbage will keep two to three weeks in the fridge or in a cool, dry place (like a garage in winter). Cut cabbage should be bagged or wrapped in plastic wrap before refrigerating for up to three days. For best color and flavor, use shredded cabbage within a day or two.
Cauliflower can be roasted whole, sliced into steaks, pulled apart into florets for a wide variety of recipes, or finely chopped to make cauliflower rice. Like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is at its sweetest, tender best when the weather is cool.
Choosing: Pick uniformly white heads with tight florets and no signs of browning. Outer leaves are a bonus, as they help keep the cauliflower fresher longer.
Storing: Remove any plastic packaging to prevent moisture build-up and browning. Store whole heads in a paper or mesh bag, or lightly wrapped in a kitchen towel, in the fridge. You can also cut the heads into florets and store them in sealed containers for three to five days.
When you cut away the thick outer skin of a knob of celery root (also called celeriac), you find a pale flesh that is firm like a turnip with a flavor similar to celery. It is excellent when used like potatoes in soups and stews, blended like cauliflower to make a creamy sauce, or grated like carrots for salads.
Choosing: Choose grapefruit-size roots that feel heavy and without too many knobs or roots sticking out. A smoother exterior means less waste after the thick peel has been cut away.
Storing: Celery root will keep for two to three weeks in the crisper drawer of the fridge or any cool, dark place. Store in a paper bag to prevent any grit from dirtying the storage space.
The root vegetable with a delicate anise flavor is harvested in late fall and early winter after the pale white bulbs have fully matured.
Choosing: Choose fennel that is white or pale green with no cracks in the flesh or browning. Select medium-size bulbs with trimmed stems (which are too fibrous to cook with).
Storing: Store fennel in a paper or plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to two weeks. (the fronds may wilt, but that’s ok.) Wrap cut fennel in plastic wrap to prevent browning. Chopped fennel can also be frozen raw for use in soups and stews.
Kale, Collards, Mustard, And Turnip Greens
Frost-resistant bitter greens brighten cold weather dishes after the season for other garden vegetables, such as green beans and zucchini, has passed.
Choosing: Look for lush, full leaves that are neither wilted nor yellowing. Test for tenderness by rubbing a leaf between your fingers; if it feels tough or fibrous, it probably will taste that way, even after cooking. These greens are fairly interchangeable in recipes, so feel free to make a substitution.
Storing: Stem, wash and dry greens when you bring them home, then store them wrapped in dry paper towels or in a lidded container for three to five days. Wilted greens can be re-plumped with a 15-minute soak in a bowl of cold water.
Leeks can be used interchangeably with onions in most recipes and are often used to add subtle texture and flavor to soups, stews and braised dishes.
Choosing: Choose small to medium-size leeks that are more white than green. Most recipes call for the white or light green parts of the vegetable; dark green leaves can be tough and fibrous. 1 medium leek is approximately 1 - 1½ cups chopped.
Storing: Store leeks whole in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Slices can be frozen raw in resealable plastic bags.
Sweeter than turnips and creamy like potatoes, rutabagas can be used in place of or in addition to both to add extra flavor to your favorite recipes.
Choosing: Choose softball-size rutabagas with smooth skin and no cuts or cracks.
Storing: Like turnips, rutabagas will keep for months in the fridge or in a cool, dark place (such as a basement or garage).
Sweet potatoes grow and mature during the warm days of summer, then are generally harvested before the first frost of fall. Their amazing flavor and versatility make them a Paleo staple.
Choosing: Choose sweet potatoes that look firm and have smooth, evenly colored skin. Give heirloom, purple, and white sweet potato varieties a try when you find them.
Storing: Keep sweet potatoes in a dark, dry, well-aerated place along with other potatoes.
These jewels of cold weather cooking are harvested throughout the fall, when they are sweetest and most tender. There are many kinds of winter squash, including butternut, acorn, delicata, and spaghetti. Most types are interchangeable in recipes, so feel free to try kabocha in place of butternut, use acorn instead of delicata, or substitute an heirloom variety.
Choosing: The skin; it should be firm and thick with no pale green undertones (a sign the squash was picked before it was fully ripe), slashes, or cuts. Make sure the stem is dry and woody.
Storing: Whole winter squash will keep in the fridge several weeks or in a cool, dark, dry place for several months. Once cut, store squash pieces or halves in the fridge, and use within three to five days.
Eating a variety of these cool-weather vegetables will give you a greater depth of nutrients and flavors to enjoy and benefit from when the temperatures are colder. Whether you try new produce or new ways of enjoying them, integrate as many of these as you’d like this season. Consider adding one or two into your menu a week as you get more familiar with how you like to cook and enjoy them.
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com