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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

For anyone looking to eat what’s in season, Sarah Rosenberger-Gullotti recommends you have broccoli and cauliflower on your plate, for starters.

As the COVID-19 pandemic leads more people to cook at home, and the popularity of the farm-to-table movement continues, Rosenberger-Gullotti—who manages the community farm program at Rancho Mission Viejo—recently spoke with The Capistrano Dispatch on how people can eat foods from local crops in alignment with the season.

Crops in season from January through March include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, citruses (such as grapefruits) and avocados, the latter of which can be found on The Ranch.

Sarah Rosenberger-Gullotti, who manages the community farm program at Rancho Mission Viejo, said cooking and eating seasonal foods is a fun way to help the environment and local businesses. Photo: Courtesy of Rancho Mission Viejo.

“All your herbs are doing really well this season,” Rosenberger-Gullotti said.

One seasonal crop that can get overlooked is parsnip, which Rosenberger-Gullotti said can be a low-carb alternative to potatoes. Rosenberger-Gullotitti is also a fan of leeks and kohlrabi, saying leeks can be added to anything that an onion can.

“It makes a good soup,” Rosenberger-Gullotti said of kohlrabi, which she compared to eating broccoli stems.

Meals you can put together with crops in this season include a citrus-inspired salad, with leafy greens and orange slices—one of her favorite meals to put together.

Rosenberger-Gullotti said there are numerous reasons to eat seasonal foods, including for health.

“You’re going to naturally diversify your diet,” she said. “You’re getting a wide range of nutrients.”

Picking something before it’s ripe means it won’t have as many nutrients.

Rosenberger-Gullotti also cited how seasonal eating can benefit the local economy and farmers, as well as the reduction it can have on your carbon footprint.

“It’s connecting you to the land in an intimate way,” Rosenberger-Gullotti said.

Going to local farmers markets is a good way to familiarize oneself with what’s in season, since vendors there generally sell seasonal goods. Growing your own food is also another way to learn what grows when.

“You’ll start to see, oh, this is when this ripens,” Rosenberger-Gullotti said.

She also recommends paying attention to how your food tastes—if something doesn’t taste good, there’s a chance it’s out of season.

Rancho Mission Viejo has several community farms in the area, though their usage by residents has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Community farm activities were on hiatus for awhile, and some masked and socially distanced activities were subsequently held, but Rosenberger-Gullotti said they are mindful of the 55-and-older residents who live there, and The Ranch is also strictly following all health guidelines.

Usage of Rancho Mission Viejo community farms by residents has been impacted by the global health crisis. Photo: Collin Breaux

The Ranch’s community farm program has recently begun accepting new members again.

Even as people are urged to continue avoiding gatherings, they can still whip up fresh meals from the comfort of their kitchens. The constraints of using seasonal ingredients can force people to experiment and get creative, Rosenberger-Gullotti said.

“The possibilities are endless,” she said.

For those who don’t have a garden in their background or aren’t into cooking, they can still experience seasonal vegetation and the general outdoors by taking a walk.

“Doing those little things connects you to the changing of the seasons and the natural world,” Rosenberger-Gullotti said.

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