Hot food: Eating locally, seasonally

Published on August 20th, 2013 | by Joe Stych

Farmers and omnivores have always shared a symbiotic relationship. But lately, Iowans have a renewed interest in where their food comes from. They buy local and eat what’s in season.

Take East Village’s HoQ restaurant, for example:

It serves locally raised beef and chicken alongside freshly plucked veggies for a true taste of Iowa agriculture. Jeremy Jessen, of Local Yocals, opened a food stand that serves burgers and fries. He uses Iowa products almost exclusively. If you prefer home cooking, Iowa is flush with thriving farmers markets.

Katie Routh, chef and food programs manager for the Wallace Centers of Iowa, says the trend is a win-win — more business for farmers and fresher food for consumers.

“Eating seasonally is about taking advantage of the bountiful produce that you have in the summer and preserving that, so that you can eat local ingredients year round,” she says. “Not having a tomato until they’re ripe in July, that kind of thing.”

Not surprisingly, Iowa — the state with more corn than people — is an ideal place to sample a farm-to-table menu. Whether she’s crafting meals at the Wallace Centers’ restaurants (one in Des Moines, one in Orient), catering a wedding or teaching a cooking class, Routh makes a point to showcase the homegrown ingredients Iowa has to offer.

“You want to support the people who are in the community and growing the food, and eating seasonally is a good way to do that,” she says.

Overall, a local, seasonal approach to dinner connects you more meaningfully to the supply chain. “I love the fact that you know where your food is coming from,” Routh says, “and you get to have a relationship with the people who are growing it.”

So, what’s on the menu? Spring means greens, fava beans and mushrooms. Summer’s your bounty season for fresh tomatoes, peppers, melons and berries. Fall has root veggies. In winter, storage vegetables like potatoes rule, along with anything you canned for later.

With all of Iowa’s options, there’s no excuse not to give seasonal eating a shot.

Here are some other “hot” things around the city:

About the Author

Joe is a contributor to Juice Magazine.

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