It's June! One of the many joys of living in the Pacific Northwest is our access to an abundance of fresh produce thanks to the rich soils, temperate climate, and the hard work of our local farmers. June is a month of transition; we move from spring into summer. As the days get longer and we are graced with more sunny days than rainy ones, the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables available from local farms increases exponentially.
Why should we eat seasonal local foods?
Foods harvested and sold locally in their ideal season spend less time in storage or traveling from farm to plate. Fresher produce means more flavor and greater nutrient-density!
The rich colors and flavors of fresh produce indicates a higher concentration of micronutrients and phytonutrients. Most fruits and vegetables contain their highest nutrient status at the time they are harvested, with a decrease in nutrients every day that they sit post-harvest.
The carbon footprint of your diet is lower when you purchase local and sustainably grown produce. Large industrial farms (even the organic ones) often practice monocropping which requires more pesticides and fertilizers, and depletes the minerals in the soil leading to less nutrient-dense crops over time.
Supporting local food helps the local economy and fosters a sense of community. This often feels non-existent in corporate owned grocery store chains, as you don't have the opportunity to connect with the local farmer who grew the food you're buying.
Many farms in Oregon grow heirloom produce and less common varieties of your favorite vegetables that you don't often see in grocery stores; a wonderful opportunity to try something new!
June Seasonal Produce Nutrition Spotlight
Season: April - June
Asparagus is a great example of a vegetable that is best purchased locally and fresh! It should be consumed one to two days after being purchased. Stand the stems upright in the fridge with the cut ends in water to keep them crisp. The nutrients in this stalky veggie are more available after lightly cooking it, so pick some up before the end of asparagus season to roast, grill or steam!
Rich in potassium, vitamin K, folate and vitamin C.
Contains inulin, a soluble (prebiotic) fiber which aids in digestive health by feeding the gut microbiome.
A source of choline, an essential nutrient that benefits cognitive health, especially in infants and children.
Many sulfur-containing compounds, such as asparagusic acid are found in asparagus. We convert this to a volatile compound contributing to the well-known asparagus pee phenomenon. At least that unpleasant odor is more tolerable when you know it's the result of your body metabolizing those antioxidant-rich compounds!
Season: June - July
There is nothing quite like a perfectly ripe strawberry during its peak harvesting season; bright red through the entire berry and sweet as can be. June is the perfect time to enjoy this berry as the increasing sunshine vine ripens them to perfection. Many local farms offer u-pick strawberries; a fun way to get outside and harvest the best yourself.
Don’t wash the berries until you are ready to eat them. Place a single layer of berries in a shallow bowl lined with a paper towel, storing them on the counter at room temperature. Enjoy within the next couple days. Freezing the berries in an airlocked container will preserve the nutrient content and then can be added to baked goods or blitzed into a smoothie.
Strawberries are high in vitamin C, manganese and anthocyanins. They are also packed with a variety of other antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds.
Despite their delicious sweetness, strawberries have been shown to help maintain lower blood sugar levels due to their fiber, water and phytonutrient content!
Season: May - December
There are many reasons to get excited about Arugula. This peppery leafy green grows easily in the PNW, a perfect addition to your garden, farmer’s market basket or grocery cart. Other countries refer to it as “rocket”, which is fitting considering its lengthy list of proposed health benefits. Though, arugula is just one of the many delicious delicate leafy greens being harvested in June! It feels natural and refreshing to transition from hearty winter greens like kale and collards to the delicate spring mix varieties. Time to dust off your favorite salad bowl!
Store and wash arugula as you do other leafy greens; place in a container or bag with a piece of paper towel and rinse before use if not pre-washed.
Arugula is a good source of vitamins A, K and C, as well as folate and potassium.
This veggie is part of the cruciferous vegetable family; veggies that are rich in the sulfur containing compound glucosinolate. They may decrease risk for certain cancers (including breast, prostate and colorectal).
Season: June - July
Oregon is one of the top sweet cherry producers in the nation; the majority of the crop being grown around Mt. Hood and along the Columbia River Gorge. Cherries are destined to be the star of your picnic basket this month. Both the sweet and crisp Rainier or the classic “Bing” cherries are sure to hit the spot while basking in the sun. Farms in Hood River should be open for picking in late June - a wonderful way to connect with nature in a safely socially distanced way!
Store cherries in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or container immediately after purchasing or picking. They can absorb water so rinse just before you eat them.
Cherries are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium! Anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant, give dark cherries their rich red/purple color. They also contain serotonin, melatonin and tryptophan; which contribute to sleep and cognitive function. Overall, cherries are a very delicious and enjoyable way to fight inflammation in the body!
Other in-season produce to eat this month:
Fresh herbs (basil, dill, etc.)
ARUGULA AND ASPARAGUS SALAD BOWL TEMPLATE:
ASPARAGUS: Wash and trim stems. Drizzle in heat-tolerant oil of choice, such as avocado or grapeseed. Place 3-4 thin slices of lemon on top and roast at 450F for about 10-14 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool and cut into thirds.
ADDED PROTEIN: Warm up poached salmon or roasted chicken from Joule.
GREENS: Give the arugula a light chop. Divide into large dinner bowls. Toss in Joule’s Kale Pumpkin Seed Pesto and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (or your favorite dressing). Top with the asparagus and protein.
FATTY TOPPING: Add avocado slices and/or a sprinkle of seeds (hemp, pumpkin, sunflower).
EXTRAS: lentil salad, red quinoa, roasted mushrooms, sauerkraut, sprouts, etc.
All of this said, I know that eating locally and seasonally is an ideal that not everyone across all socioeconomic statuses and in all neighborhoods can strive for. For some, simply getting enough food on the table is enough of a stress without the extra burden of selecting the "freshest of fresh" or local, organic, & seasonal food options. While we don't have all of the solutions at our fingertips for how best to fight against the disparities in the food system, we at Joule do firmly believe in taking every step possible to help everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, geographical location, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or other determining factor, gain access to nutrient-dense food.
What steps can we take to make that happen?
For those of us who do have the ability to make food choices based on what's local, seasonal, and supportive of small-business owners, farmers, and local food producers, we have the responsibility to make greater access easier for all by continuing to vote with our forks and put our money where our mouth is. Every time we buy locally-made foods and support farms, CSAs, and other small businesses who use sustainable practices, we are in turn choosing NOT to support industrial agriculture, large corporations, monocropping, or other food systems practices that aren't in support of our health. We are making it ever so slightly easier for those small businesses and local farms to increase their reach, giving more of an equal chance for those who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford locally-grown, seasonal, or fresh food. We're telling the food system as a whole, "we believe that good sourcing matters, and we don't support the large corporations that aren't in support of our health". Every time we make that decision, we collectively raise our voice in support of locally grown, seasonal, and environmentally-conscious food.
The Portland Farmer's Market organization put out a short post titled Food Justice is Racial Justice, which I think articulates some of the reform that's necessary in our food system to make local, seasonal eating more accessible. However, there is, of course, so much more to the picture than just this snapshot. Thankfully there are many organizations that exist to bring about greater food access and make nutrient-dense food options less expensive and more attainable to the vulnerable populations who otherwise struggle to get them. Do your research and support them too! Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon is one of them; and don't forget that SNAP benefits are matched at Portland farmer's markets! What does that mean? From Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon's website:
While most of Oregon Farmers markets accept SNAP benefits (also known as Food Stamps, EBT or Oregon Trail), many also offer a matching program, which doubles SNAP purchases dollar for dollar up to a certain amount — meaning you could get $10 worth of food for only $5 from your SNAP account.
See the list of local farmer's markets (and there are MANY!) on their website here.
Our voices are stronger together. And together we can make a difference in the food system, one bite at a time.
Be well, stay healthy, and connect with your food.
In good health,