Eating seasonally is not just a culinary trend, but a practice that goes back centuries. Before refrigeration, transportation, and global food production, people only ate what was available in their local region and during specific times of the year.
With the advent of technology, we now have access to almost any food year-round. However, this convenience comes at a cost. Produce that is grown out of season often requires more pesticides, fertilizers, and energy to be cultivated, transported, and preserved. Additionally, it can be more expensive and may lack the same nutritional value and taste as seasonal produce.
Opting for locally-sourced, seasonal foods is not only eco-friendly but also provides a range of nutritional and culinary benefits. Here are some of the reasons why eating seasonally is so important:
1. Nutritional Content
When fruits and vegetables ripen naturally and in season, they are at their peak in terms of nutrition. This is because they are allowed to fully develop and absorb all the nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants from the soil.
Studies have shown that seasonal produce contains more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial compounds than non-seasonal produce. For example, in the summer, tomatoes are rich in lycopene (an antioxidant that protects against cancer), while in the fall, pumpkins and sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene (that helps with vision and immune health).
Seasonal produce is not only more nutritious, but it also tastes better. This is because the fruit and vegetables have had a chance to fully ripen on the vine or tree, developing a natural sweetness and flavor. Out-of-season produce, on the contrary, may be picked before they are fully matured, leading to a suboptimal texture, flavor, and nutrient content.
For example, a freshly picked and in-season peach tastes juicy, sweet, and fragrant, while a peach that is grown and harvested overseas may be picked before it has fully ripened and will likely have a mealy taste and texture.
3. Supporting local farmers
The benefits of seasonal eating are not just limited to your own health but also extend to local communities. Eating locally-sourced, seasonal foods supports small farmers and producers, who help to strengthen local economies, preserve open lands, and foster environmental stewardship.
By buying produce from a farmers market, you not only support the local farmer, but you also get to know where your food comes from, how it is produced, and who is responsible for it. This can help create a sense of community and connection with the people who grow and harvest our food.
Seasonal produce is often less expensive than non-seasonal produce because it is abundant and easier to transport. For example, in the winter, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and chard are grown locally and are therefore cheaper than if they were to be shipped from another country.
Moreover, eating seasonally can also help people to save money on their grocery bills. By planning meals around seasonal produce, we can simplify our grocery lists and reduce food waste, leading to savings in the long run.
5. Environmental Impact
Eating seasonally helps to reduce the carbon footprint associated with food production and transportation. When we eat foods that are in season and grown locally, we reduce the amount of energy and emissions required to transport and store food.
Additionally, seasonal produce is often grown using fewer chemicals and pesticides, further reducing the environmental impact of farming. This is because seasonal crops are naturally more resistant to pests and require fewer interventions to grow successfully.
In conclusion, eating seasonally is not only beneficial for our health and taste buds but also for the environment and local communities. By opting for locally-sourced, seasonal foods, we can support small farmers, reduce our carbon footprint, save money and enjoy a range of delicious and nutritious flavors. Make sure to check out what’s in season in your area and incorporate them into your next meal plan!