Buying Local and Seasonal Produce

It’s officially fruit season in Ontario!

August is the very best month for buying delicious local, seasonal fruit and vegetables. It’s the peak moment for purchasing the best produce Ontario has to offer.

Why Buy Local and Seasonal?

We live in a very fortunate society. We can get bananas from Brazil at any time of the year conveniently at our neighbourhood grocery store. We can buy raspberries from California in December! Why wait until the summer to eat wild blueberries when you can get them frozen whenever you feel like it?

Because local and seasonal fruit is just better.

For one thing, it tastes better. So much better. Because the fruit doesn’t have to travel far and wide to reach you, it’s picked much closer to ripeness = much more flavour. I might sound like Guy Fieri here, but bonus flavourtown points if you can buy it directly from your local farmer at one of the many markets in Ontario. It will probably have been picked THAT DAY, or at least that week.

Not only does the fruit taste better, it’s also much more nutrient dense. Fruit maintains its vital nutrients much more efficiently when it’s eaten immediately after harvest. If you are buying directly from a farmer, the fruit isn’t picked before it reaches peak nutrient content or left to decay slowly on a truck, plane, train or grocery store shelf.

Local and seasonal is much kinder to our environment, as well. All those strawberries coming from California? They don’t walk here themselves. You lower your carbon emission footprint and protect our Mama Earth by purchasing local. That’s just being a good human.

Lastly, when you eat seasonally, you’re purchasing something that is abundantly available. And you know what major supply means? Prices go down.

So local, seasonal fruit is:

  • delicious
  • healthier
  • kinder to the environment
  • cheaper

Wins all around!

So, what’s available in August at a local market near you?

I hope you’re convinced you need to buy local, seasonal fruit this year. If not, let me introduce you to this month’s heroes. The bounty is major, guys. We are supremely fortunate to live in a place where so much incredible produce grows every summer.

August is all about:

  • apples
  • apricots
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cantaloupe
  • cherries
  • grapes
  • nectarines
  • peaches
  • plums + pluots
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • watermelon

Got my fruit. Now, what am I going to do with it?

Of course, you can eat it raw. Fruit digests best on an empty stomach, so I always suggest you eat it 30 minutes prior to meals or a 3-4 hours after a meal. First thing in the morning is my favourite time. But, it’s summer. You want something a little special, I get it. There’s all this summer bounty and you want to make the best of it.

You can make a delicious cobbler with whole food ingredients. Especially with stone fruits, apples and berries. Mix it up, get creative with your flavourings. I like to incorporate vanilla bean paste, maple sugar, lavender, orange blossom water, bourbon, or local honey. Play with it!

Easy Fruit Crisp (adapted from Minimalist Baker)

Fruit mixture:

  • 5 cups of peeled, stemmed or cored, chopped fruit
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice – I also use orange or lime
  • 2 tbsp maple or coconut sugar – you can reduce or increase depending on the sweetness of the fruit
  • 1 tbsp tapioca or arrowroot starch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom, vanilla extract, alcohol!

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar – or sub half muscovado, half coconut sugar
  • 1 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (or another nut meal, gluten free flour blend or regular flour)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, cold butter or olive oil

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8×8 inch baking dish with coconut oil, butter or olive oil. Add chopped fruit to a large bowl and toss together with spices, sugar, lemon, salt, starch and other flavourings. Transfer fruit into the baking pan and spread evenly. Add all topping ingredients into a bowl and combine the mixture with a wooden spoon or your fingers until it resembles wet sand. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit and bake 45-60 minutes until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden. Serve warm.

If you have leftover fruit, can I suggest a refreshing sorbet? Strawberry nectarine? Raspberry lime? Bourbon maple peach? Sorbet tends to work best with high-pectin fruit like berries and stone fruits. You can even make a dairy-free fruit sherbet by adding a couple tablespoons of coconut milk.

Sorbet (adapted from Serious Eats)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds chopped, peeled (if necessary) fruit – makes about 4 cups fruit puree
  • 1 cup of organic sugar (sucanat, table, coconut)
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • pinch of himalayan salt
  • whatever flavourings you desire!

Method:

Puree your fruit along with the sugar, lemon juice and flavourings in a blender and then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Chill 2-4 hours until the puree is very cold.

Churn in an ice cream maker about 20 minutes until you have sorbet! Place the sorbet into an airtight container and freeze for about 4 hours, or until you’re ready to serve. Enjoy!

And if sweets don’t turn you on, what about a peach salsa? Great with barbecued (organic! grass fed!) meats. shellfish or a scoop of fresh guac.

Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh peaches, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced red onions
  • 2-4 tbsp finely diced jalapeno
  • 2 tbsp lime, about 1 whole lime squeezed
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • anything else you want to add? mango, ginger, garlic, parsley, mint, chives, orange juice?

Method:

Chop it all up! Mix together in a small bowl. Let it sit, room temperature, for about 30 minutes to an hour. Serve. Super easy.

For more information on what’s in season near us, check out this convenient Harvest Ontario guide.

Get thee to a farmer’s market in your town or drive out to a local farmer and buy some seasonal jewels. I promise you won’t regret it.

Lauren Marotta is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN),lifestyle + wellness expert, cook, and writer obsessed with keeping it real. To learn more about Lauren, follow her on Instagram + Twitter @laurenmarotta, visit her website www.laurenmarotta.com, or get in touch with her by saying hi@laurenmarotta.com.