What’s IN & What’s OUT (of season)

So, clearly it’s full on summer at this point. Everybody (hopefully) has been having bbq’s, enjoying the beach, and picking farm fresh berries…. or have you not been taking advantage of all the delicious, fresh foods that are currently ripening up perfectly this “in” season? 

Do you even know which fruits and vegetables are in season right now?

Do you know even what it means for a product to be “in season” or not?

For you to take full advantage of this delicious, ripe season, you need to know what I’m talking about here!

A food that is “in season” means that product is being harvested naturally and can be bought fresh in markets. A product can be bought out of season, but that would mean it’s not being bought within its natural harvest season.

Does that matter? Yes, on several levels!

First and foremost, eating what’s in season is more cost effective for you. Naturally harvested products tend to cost less than products harvested out of their natural seasons due to artificial growing methods or shipping costs.

Additionally, taste matters! A product bought in season tastes fresher than one bought out of season. An out of season product is either grown at a hothouse, which is a mostly glass building specifically used for growing out of season foods, or shipped from somewhere around the world. Both of these methods can affect the taste since Mother Nature didn’t get a chance to properly nurture the food, and the food must be frozen ASAP to prevent rotting.

Finally, by eating what foods are in season, you are provided with tastier variety all year long! Most people don’t even realize that the fall and winter seasons yield natural crops, just as the spring and summer yield a nice variety. 

Some examples of foods that are IN season at different times throughout the year include:

Fall – cranberries, squash, apples, garlic, grapes, figs, mushrooms, celery, cauliflower.
Winter – citrus, kale, radishes, turnips, leeks, celery, cauliflower, kiwis.
Spring – grapefruit, green onions, kiwis, lemons, onions, scallions, strawberries.
Summer – chickpeas, corn, gooseberries, green beans, pea greens, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, most berries.

So go ahead! Eat some berries this week! Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are bound to be bright, juicy, ripe, and delicious because they’re all IN season right now!

I’ll be sure to post some DELICIOUS berry recipes for you to enjoy, so check back later this month 🙂

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Cup of Tea

Tea has become a pretty hot (or iced) commodity these days. So popular, in fact, you can personalize your style and tea content to match YOUR likes. No more buying boring boxes of tea bags. You can mix and match real tea leaves, blend flavors, and more. But while this is all really fun stuff, are you just on the tea bandwagon because it’s cool? As you suck down yet another canister of iced tea today, find out more about the benefits (and drawbacks) tea offers.

~Style~

Do you know the difference between loose leaf tea and tea bags? If you care about quality, content, and taste, you want to! Loose leaf tea, like the tea you can buy at Teavana, is of higher quality than the tea bags you can buy just about anywhere else. Loose leaf tea is made of entire tea leaves and large, hand picked buds. The tea found in tea bags, while taken from the same sources, is a combination of smaller, broken up pieces. This reduces the quality of the tea as flavor is compromised.

While tea bags are arguably more convenient, you shouldn’t necessarily sacrifice convenience for quality. Loose leaf tea can typically be re-steeped for multiple brews, without losing the flavor of the tea. This is because loose leaf tea, when steeped, has more room to absorb the hot water and expand to extract the flavors. The result is a high quality, fresh tasting, highly flavorful cup of tea.

Tea bags, on the other hand, are good for one brew and often have a bitter, harsh taste as a result of more tannins escaping from the tea bag into the tea. This results from the small, broken pieces of tea leaves having a larger surface area – so most of that delicious flavor you’re trying to infuse into your water evaporates away. The result is a quickly brewed, harsh tasting cup of tea.

Additionally, loose leaf tea can be personal! When you buy tea bags, you’re restricted to the flavors offered on the boxes. When purchasing loose leaf tea, you can easily mix flavors and make your own unique blends, without reducing quality and taste.

Either way you enjoy your tea, remember that it does in fact have an expiration date. When stored properly in an air tight container, good quality tea can last anywhere from six months to a year.

~Content~

Caffeine – Many teas contain caffeine, and certain types may even have higher caffeine contents than coffee. So if you think you’re being healthier simply because you’ve replaced your coffee addiction with tea, think again.

Antioxidants – Antioxidants are micronutrients that really help our bodies by protecting the tissues and preventing harmful chemical reactions from occurring in our cells. You can find antioxidants in fruits and vegetables and the most common antioxidant compounds are pretty well known: Vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, and more! Tea contains plenty of these helpful vitamins.

Calories – Tea is one beverage you don’t need to feel bad about indulging in. There’s no sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, etc. in tea. Plus, if you’re using loose leaf tea instead of tea bags, you likely won’t even feel the need to add sugar or any other sweetener to it because the flavor is all there!

~Good or Bad~

Like anything, too much can be a bad thing. While most teas have less caffeine than coffee, that doesn’t mean there’s no caffeine in the tea you drink. So drinking multiple cups per day can result in anxiety, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.

Similarly, since tea does contain caffeine, and since caffeine is a stimulant, you can become addicted and dependent upon it. If you typically have a few cups of tea per day, then suddenly stop drinking it, you may experience the usual symptoms of withdrawal such as headaches and fatigue.

On the other hand, the antioxidants found in tea have great health benefits. Drinking tea can help protect us against cancers and other degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Tea helps hydrate us, even despite the caffeine. This has a domino effect, often aiding people in weight loss, managing Type 2 diabetes, and lowering cholesterol levels.

Green tea in particular has a lot of health benefits including increasing bone density, combating allergies, promoting eyesight health, and warding off the effects of UV radiation. (Don’t believe me? Read this.)

So, all in all, I’d say go ahead and put down the coffee mug. Buy some loose leaf tea flavors. Mix them up, brew them over ice and enjoy a nice cool, healthy beverage this summer.