I am a terrible meal planner. I frequently arrive at the grocery store without a plan and hungry, which, as any seasoned cook will tell you, guarantees only two things: spending too much money and not making healthy choices.
For some people, this is not an issue. A past roommate of mine turned trips to the local farmer’s market into a date. She and her beau would set a target spending amount, browse the stalls for ingredients, and then head home to have an at-home Iron Chef challenge with their purchases.
Unfortunately, not all of us have that level of creativity or flexibility. (Trust that I’m raising my hand.) Thankfully, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture has an at-a-glance chart of what locally grown fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year. While the chart cannot be exact, it is an excellent guideline for anyone who wants to use local produce but needs to plan meals or dishes in advance.
What is in store for September and October? Say goodbye to peaches, grapes, cucumbers, and green beans in the near future. Pumpkins and tomatoes will be available for a little while longer, while cabbage, apples, and leafy greens are going to be around for at least a few months. Don’t forget peanuts and sweet potatoes, which are available all year round.
If you are like me and need a little recipe inspiration, here are a few that caught my eye and would be excellent with locally-grown ingredients at your next church meal:
- Grilled sweet potatoes and apples – for a slightly healthier alternative, try using margarine instead of butter.
- Cucumber, Tomato, and Feta Salad – try asking your local farmer or vendor which tomato varieties would work well with these flavors
- You can’t forget toasted pumpkin seeds to accompany pumpkin carving!
- Roasted apples or roasted apple butter – these would be a great option for snack time with younger church members! For a twist, try making it with pumpkins, too.
- Don’t forget a classic: apple sauce!
If you don’t find something here you like, try searching for your own! AllRecipes.com allows you to search by ingredients that you want or do not want to include, while CookThink.com lets you pick based on ingredients, cuisines, specific dishes, and even your food mood. Another excellent resource would be the farmers or local vendors themselves; asking them their thoughts is a great way to build a bond with those who provide our food.
– Leslie Forrest, NC State School of Social Work intern, NC Council of Churches