by Shannon Gierl Wintheiser
It's strawberry season! in case you hadn't realized, one of the best fruits of summer is ripe again and ready for the picking (and pie-ing: strawberry-rhubarb pie seems to be on every restaurant dessert menu right now!). Yum.
I can't get enough of fresh, in season and local fruit in the summer. I put them in smoothies, top them with nuts and a dollop of greek yogurt, and even put them in salads. I've been making a TON of salads these past two weeks in particular because our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) garden just started producing shares, and that has meant lots of fresh salad greens, herbs, and spinach - perfect for making all kinds of salads!
So that brings me to the ONE simple thing you can do (that takes almost no effort on an ongoing basis!) to really increase your nutrient intake this summer:
Find a local CSA to become a part of!
The concept of a CSA is that a local farmer has crops to share that he divides among members, who have each paid upfront for a "share" of the crops. There are various models of CSAs (some require you to work a certain number of hours at the farm, but most do not), some are packed boxes with a set amount and variety of produce, and others will let you pick and choose or "create your own" weekly share box with certain limitations.
The benefit to all is fresh (I'm talking super-fresh - you haven't tasted a carrot until you've pulled it up out of the ground, dusted it off, and taken a bite!), local produce that you know exactly how it was grown (my CSA does not spray ANYTHING on the crops; they can be considered organic). Plus you are supporting your local farmers!
Eating local is, in a way, getting back to our roots. A hundred years ago, there weren't big grocery chains and super stores, and our ancestors ate (for the most part) what was grown close by. Intuitively, this is healthier on many levels. As more time passes after a vegetable has been picked, the more nutrients it loses. Most of the produce we consume from the store spends days (at least!) on trucks or in warehouses of some sort before we even have a chance to buy it.
Further, eating local means you are eating more in-season foods. The body wants to eat in-season - it is so healthy for balancing the systems and keeping the digestive tract happy. You will generally feel better if you put more raw salads and fruits in your body in the summer months to cool it off, and less of these foods in the winter months when the body needs warming foods like meat and soups, etc. Eating locally helps this natural pattern play out in our diets.
Are you sold yet?! Sweet :). At localharvest.org you can search for a CSA near you. You can also search for local farms and farmer's markets. There are tons of CSAs all over the country - so you likely won't have any trouble finding one within reach!
Strawberry Summer Salad with Honey-lime Vinaigrette
Ok, now back to the salad! Last week I used local greens, herbs, and strawberries to create this satisfying and oh-so-delicious sweet and tangy salad. Cooking has been even a little more fun lately: we moved into my parent's house last week, and now, I have an amazing kitchen with an island to end all islands at my disposal. (If you ever plan on doing food photography, I definitely recommend getting all-white quartz countertops!).
You're probably wondering why a pregnant lady and her husband would move in willingly with her parents, but there is an end game: we are building a house across the river, and we sold our old house in about 12 hours! So here we are. The new house is supposed to be done in September (I know, we are cutting it kinda close with this whole baby-in-the-belly thing). In the meantime, I'm enjoying spending extra time with my family and living, working, and cooking in their beautiful space!
Ok so here's the salad! If you want to make it vegan (and a little more healthy), just skip the cheese. I've been eating more cheese than usual lately (pregnancy cravings - such a great excuse) so cheese goes on every salad I make right now.
Click here to print the recipe.
Do you belong to a CSA? Do you want to, but have questions? Post them in the comments below and I will make sure to respond to each one! Do yourself and your family a healthy favor this summer and eat local!
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Sending you lots of health, happiness and radiance!