Spring has sprung and it’s time to gather up all those verdant veggies. Whether you pick your produce at a friendly farmers’ market or go to the grocery store, your food will undoubtedly taste its best when it’s fresh. The truth is, eating “in season” is more than just restaurant propaganda—it’s the only way to ensure that you’re eating the tastiest and healthiest produce possible. It’s also a heck of a lot easier on your wallet. We recently spoke with Ayaz Adiguzelli, chef-owner of the popular Paleo meal-plan service Graze & Braise to get the low-down on buying locally and seasonally in Hudson County, as well as his best tips for storing and preparing produce at its peak.
Where To Buy:
Hudson County houses more farmers’ markets than you’re probably aware of. That being said, if you’ve ever been to one you know it’s nothing like a trip to Trader Joe’s. They don’t have the same selection that you’d find in let’s say, a supermarket, but what they lack in variety they make up for in taste. They’re also a great place to build relationships with local vendors and farmers. Come spring and summer, Adiguzelli frequents farmers’ markets to connect one-on-one with farmers who he says are always more than happy to share information about their produce.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of CSA or knew you could become a member. Adiguzelli, on the other hand, explained to me how the system works. What it does is allow the public direct access to high quality, fresh produce that’s grown locally. Farmers will offer up a certain number of “shares” of their crops and members will then pay a fee upfront for a years’ worth of produce. In return, members will then receive a box of vegetables weekly or bi-weekly throughout the farming season (June until October or November), delivered to local CSA spots in your state—think of it as a subscription service of sorts.
Because produce has become so readily available year-round, shoppers have lost track of the seasons. When shopping for produce at a supermarket, look for any signs (literally) that may mention local partner farms or ask to speak to a store manager who may have additional information. But most of all, shop for items that are at the peak of their growing season. As to whether or not you should be buying organic, Adiguzelli said: “What organic used to be versus what it is now are two different things. I used to be obsessed with making sure everything I bought was organic but now I’ve become more driven towards finding out where the produce is actually coming from and what the farmers’ practices are.”
What to Get:
“These are in season for such a short amount of time because they can only be foraged wildly while they still have their spiral shape. There’s a real earthiness to them and they taste great sauteed with olive oil and garlic, pickled, or I like to use them in tikka masala.”
For a lightened up spinach dip: “Heat up a little olive oil in a pan and add chopped onions and garlic. Saute until translucent. Throw in spinach and cook down until all the water has evaporated. Take it off the heat, let it cool and then give it a rough chop. Mix in plain yogurt and season with salt and pepper.”
“Store bought lettuce is bland. It doesn’t taste the same as a head of lettuce picked just hours earlier. Fresh lettuce has a different texture—it has more body and flavor.”
Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Kale
“Once these are cooked they’ll last for up to a week in the fridge. I recommend buying these in bulk because once they cook down, you’re left with almost nothing.”
[Main image by Eataly]