How to Make the Most of our Local Harvest Season

There are lots of nutritional and financial benefits to eating seasonally, but that can be difficult to do once our state’s local growing season is over. Here are a few ways you can make the bounty of Wisconsin harvesttime last a little longer:

1. RESEARCH WHEN CERTAIN PRODUCE WILL BE HARVESTED. If you’re a seasonal eater, you might already have a handy chart or list that tells you when local produce will be in season. If not, it’s time to get one! Check out this one we published on our website a couple of years back, or do a quick search online for produce harvest times in Wisconsin. Lots of options will come up, and then you can use those to plan meals or set a date for when you want to do some preserving in bulk.

2. CREATE A MEAL PLAN. Now that you know when the fresh fruits and veggies you want to buy will be landing on shelves, the single best way to make them (and your budget) go further is to write out a meal plan for the harvest season. This does require a bit of organization on your part, but if you do it for one year, you can reuse your plan as a template in subsequent seasons, so it’s worth the time. Even just jotting down a rough list of what you want to eat and when is better than nothing.

3. CHECK THE PRODUCE DEPARTMENT OFTEN FOR NEW ARRIVALS AND SPECIAL DEALS. Our co-op stocks some local produce year-round, but harvest season really begins in late spring and early summer. Starting in May and June through around the end of November, you’ll want to keep an especially close eye on what local fruits, vegetables, and herbs are available at least once a week because that’s how quickly inventory can change. For example, we only receive a few deliveries of the oh-so-popular sweet corn from Wheatfield Hill Organics each year, and once it’s gone for the season, that’s it! By stopping into our stores or checking our Produce Department online frequently, you can snag your favorites while they’re in and usually at better prices, too.

4. PRESERVE THE PRODUCE YOU DON’T USE RIGHT AWAY. We’ve all been there. You did everything right, watched for when your favorite local apple varieties or root vegetables were in stock, and you took your bounty home swearing to yourself that you’d eat it by the end of the week, only to have life get in the way. As long as the produce isn’t already too far gone, you can still prolong its life! For example, freezing is an excellent option for many vegetables, berries, and herbs; just be sure to look up a technique called “blanching” before doing so to make sure you maintain as much freshness as possible depending on the product. Other go-to ways to save your produce before it spoils are, of course, canning, fermenting, or making them into jams or jellies. Or you can whip together a quick homemade soup and refrigerate it to eat over the next several days.

By setting aside extra time to plan and by staying on top of what’s available and when you’ll find yourself enjoying local fruits and vegetables longer than you thought possible given Wisconsin’s short growing season.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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