Q. Is there such a thing as an Android app that will give me a recipe a day, or even a week, using locally available in-season produce?
A. Dearest Margaret,
A few things I learned while researching your query: There is an app that lets you solicit free hugs from strangers. Another that sends messages in Aaron Paul’s voice. There’s even one that tracks your, er, mobile daily constitutionals. But as far as I can tell, there is not an app that does exactly what you desire. Funny world we live in, isn’t it?
The good news is that there are several apps that get close, plus loads more resources both online and off to help you find and consume seasonal goodies. (And if I’ve overlooked any, dear readers, please chime in in the comments section.) Let me say I’m thrilled to assist in your quest, Margaret: Cooking local, in-season produce reduces our food’s carbon footprint from shipping, supports small farmers, can expand our access to organic food, and is super-tasty.
Let’s begin with apps to fit your on-the-go lifestyle. Disclaimer: My brand agnosticism extends to apps, and I haven’t done extended testing on these selections. That said, one app I uncovered is the free Seasonal Food Fruits and Vegs, which could arguably have put more thought into its name but comes up with great reviews. You enter your region (it includes not just the U.S., but also the U.K. and some European countries) and the app delivers suggestions for available produce – this week in the Pacific Northwest, for example, I have cabbage, leeks, mushrooms, carrots, and turnip greens at the ready. Choose an item and you get nutrition info, but the recipe feature feels a bit tacked-on: It simply links to a Google search for “turnip greens recipes.”
You declined to specify which Chesterfield you call home, Margaret, but if it’s the one in Missouri, then you’re in for a treat: The University of Missouri Extension offers a free, full-bodied app called Seasonal and Simple. It provides a month-by-month chart of fruits and veggies, nutrition info, a farmers market directory, and yes, recipes for every featured item. You’ll have to wait until March for your fresh fix, but then you can look forward to spinach, plus recipes for goodies like spinach pie. Well done, Show-Me State. Now if only the other 49 of us had something similar.
The most robust tools I found by far, however, are websites. They tend to have more recipes, and identify more available produce per month. There’s the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Eat Local widget, a map-based tool that lists local foods by month (if you’re in the New Jersey Chesterfield, get ready for some oysters!) and sometimes includes recipes. Or Sustainable Table’s Seasonal Food Guide, a state-by-state database with links to essential food info (such as the history of mushrooms — no fooling) and the occasional recipe. And Epicurious gets in on the action with its Seasonal Ingredient Map, which features your state’s monthly harvest and, best of all, tons of recipes from culinary powerhouses like Bon Appétit and Gourmet.
The USDA also offers Nutrition Through the Seasons. It’s national, not regional, so you won’t get tailored selections. What you will get is a treasure trove of food knowledge, such as info about choosing and storing fruits and veggies, recipes, digital comics about superhero fruits, growing tips for your garden, thrifty holiday menus, and a list of all the country’s food holidays — next up, Granola Bar Day on Jan. 21.
Finally, I wouldn’t dismiss analog sources of fresh, delicious recipes in your search for app enlightenment. CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares often come with recipes for using the bounty in your weekly box, and that’s on top of all the other benefits of joining a CSA. And old-fashioned cookbooks can often be quite useful when figuring out what to do with all that kohlrabi. At least until one of you developers out there comes out with a whiz-bang seasonal recipe app. Margaret and I will be first in line.