By Food Rescue Coordinator, Anthony Summa, in partnership with MetroWest YMCA
Spring has come and gone in a blink of an eye, as it always seems to in New England. With the warm weather comes a greater variety of fruits and vegetables all grown locally. But why should we care about eating seasonally and locally?
Well, in this time and climate, specifically, it is a great way to support local farms and businesses. With so many people hurting financially due to COVID-19, signing up for a local farm’s CSA program or going to a farmers’ market (one that’s socially-distanced, of course) is a great opportunity to give back to your community and get delicious, fresh food in the process.
On top of that, eating seasonally is better for the environment. By supporting local farms, you are reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions needed for transportation and you are also getting to enjoy fresher products than those picked weeks earlier and shipped across the country (or imported from elsewhere).
So now, the fun bit, what is actually in season around July in New England?
We start to see some fresh fruit: with apples, blueberries, cherries, melons, peaches and raspberries all in season. As far as vegetables go, everything that I love to cook with is growing nearby at this time of year. Pop over to the farmers’ market and you’ll find eggplants, garlic, green beans, onions, sweet peppers and potatoes.
This time of year has, in my opinion, some of the best produce grown in the area, so I tend to make extra portions of everything and leave some in the freezer for later in the year. I always buy more fruit than we can eat before it spoils, so in the summer, we make jams and jellies, and cut excess fruit and put it in the freezer for smoothies or baked goods. As for veggies, this is the best time of year for pasta sauce. With tomato, onion, and garlic being in season you have a typical sauce right there, but add in basil, eggplant and sweet peppers and you have a flavorful sauce just begging to be simmered all morning long and tossed with some fresh pasta.
Keeping things local, I’d like to highlight a great agency we partner with out in Framingham. The MetroWest YMCA and Lovin’ Spoonfuls have been working together since 2016. The YMCA has been able to set up grocery pickups for its members on Mondays and Fridays, utilizing fresh produce, dairy, prepared meals and more provided by Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Currently they are able to assist over 65 families and ensure they have quality food to take home. With the variety and quantity of products we are able to provide, the members are able to email in their specific needs based on family size, allergies, and personal preferences.
Prior to the pandemic, they had been putting together bags for their staff and members in need, but have seen demand skyrocket to an unprecedented level. (Just this past week, the YMCA was able to pass out its 400th box of food since April 1!) In the past, the donations mostly assisted the Early Learning Center families, of which 50% utilize the voucher or assist programs. Once safe to do so, the YMCA plans to also resume having food out in the lobby for families to shop through and select items that they are in need of. In total this could provide much needed assistance to as many as 85 families this month.
So, without further ado, the reason we are here, the food! Using seasonal produce delivered by Lovin’ Spoonfuls, Maggie Lynch, the Director of Nutrition Services at the YMCA, put together this great recipe. I hope you’ll try this it and more, get some family and friends together for a socially-distanced dinner (maybe outside in the beautiful weather), and enjoy all that New England has to offer this time of year.
Peach & Tomato Salsa Recipe –
2 large tomatoes (seeded)
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove
1 big handful of cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeño (seeded, or can be omitted/ swapped for green bell pepper for young children!)
Salt to taste
1) Place garlic and chopped onion into a food processor. Blend until finely minced, or desired consistency. Empty out food processor into a bowl.
2) Remove the pit from the peaches (leave on the skin for added nutrients such as fiber!) and chop into pieces. Add to food processor. Cut tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Add to food processor. Blend until smooth and minced, or to your desired consistency. Add to bowl with onion and garlic.
3) Wash cilantro well then remove the leaves from stems. Add to food processor with jalapeno if using. Blend until finely minced. Add to bowl.
4) Squeeze fresh lime juice into bowl and add salt to taste.
5) Stir all ingredients and allow to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving (optional).
Makes 6 servings. Tastes delicious served with tortilla chips, on top of tacos, blended into brown rice, or spooned over fish such as tilapia or salmon. Enjoy!