Regardless of whether you love or hate cauliflower, when it’s suddenly fetching $6, $7, even $8 for a single head you sit up and take notice. The answer to the high price tag is simple enough: a low Canadian dollar and the ongoing drought in California.
None of us has the individual power to change either of those things but we do have the power to change what we eat when.
Canadians have access to a wide range of fruits and vegetables from around the world all year long and that makes us a bit spoiled for having whatever we want when we want it. Continuing to eat that way, however, is only going to cost you more at the grocery store.
Eating in season has long been one of the best ways to save on the food bill, but not enough of us apply the philosophy anymore. More than likely this is simply because we don’t know what’s in season when. On that front, Foodland Ontario’s availability guide is a handy site to bookmark. https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/availability-guide
Eating foods when they are at their peak provides better nutrition and the cost is often lower than at other times of the year simply because the crop is coming in all at once and needs to be sold. In late fall, for example, I can often pick up the last of the locally-grown broccoli and cauliflower cheap, use some fresh, and freeze the rest for later noshing. At the end of the different berry seasons, I’ll go for the crummy looking ones that are priced lower because I’m just going to freeze them anyway and use them in smoothies.
In Canada, winter is root vegetable season. Carrots, potatoes, beets, turnips, etc. are all root veggies that Canada grows in abundance. We have stockpiles of them, enough to last us through most, if not all of winter.
Sprouts are available year-round to satisfy cravings for fresh greens, and you can also turn to frozen vegetables. A lot of people turn up their noses at frozen veg, but not only will the vegetable often come from a Canadian producer, it will also have been frozen at its peak in the season. Considering that the head of “fresh” broccoli you picked up at the store was likely in transit for two days, and could have been harvested up to a week ago, the frozen version offers similar or even better nutritional value.
Eating in season gives me something to look forward to. There is nothing quite like the first asparagus in spring or the first strawberries in June. Thankfully, some foods are never out of season, at least not where I live. Apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, rutabaga, sprouts, turnips, and of course, the humble potato can be had all year long for a good price.
Cheeky Spud Soup
Potatoes, Water, Leeks (don’t throw away the green tops; freeze them in a bag and use when making stock), Garlic, S&P (salt & pepper), Thyme, Cheese, Milk, stock (optional)
Chop 2-3 medium-sized potatoes into small pieces and put them in a pot with just enough water to cover them. Add about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil for about a minute, then turn off the burner and cover the pot.
In a skillet over medium heat, sauté 1-2 chopped leeks (depending on size and how leeky you like things) with 1-4 cloves of chopped garlic (depending on the number of vampires you’re trying to annoy), about 1-2 tsp of thyme and salt and pepper in a bit of olive oil or butter for about 5 minutes, or until the leeks are soft.
The potatoes in water should now be soft (stick a knife in one of the potato bits and if it slides right off, they’re done). DO NOT DRAIN THE WATER.
In a blender, combine half of the sautéed leeks with half of the potato-water mix* and blend till smooth. You can use a hand blender for this as well. *You may have to do smaller batches to blend all of it. Blend until all the potato mix is done but remember to reserve half of the leeks for later.
Put the well-blended mix back into the pot. If it’s too thick for your liking, add milk, water or vegetable/chicken stock to thin it out. Heat the soup to very hot, then turn it off. Slowly whisk in about 1 cup of shredded cheese (old cheddar works well but you can use pretty much any cheese you like) until it’s all melted. Add the remaining leeks and stir. Heat through again if necessary.