The last couple of weeks I have been reading on the subject of eating seasonally, meaning, eating foods that are grown and harvest at the time of year you eat them. Not only will these foods have a better nutritional profile when in season and in result improve your health, but this way of eating also benefits the earth and is cost-effective as well. Michael Pollan touched upon this idea of eating seasonally in his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, explaining that before global transportation was as speedy and commonplace as it is today, eating seasonally and locally were just things everyone did. No one assumed you could get peaches in the winter, or chestnuts in the summer. Those things were part of enjoying that season. At the end of this post is a list of foods that are in season now (september), but first let me explain the benefits of this way of eating.
You get a wider variety of food in your diet
Most of us are creatures of habit and I am not an exception. When I get into the habit of eating a particular dish for lunch, let’s say pumpkin soup, it is easy for me to have that same meal every single day for the rest of the year, which isn’t ideal for your body. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have eat something every single day. The concept of needing to eat a wide variety of foods to be healthy, is not entirely true. There are many cultures, like the Okinawans, whose diet is around 75% the same every day, but that 75% consists of local grown foods that are in season year round. They meat all their nutrition requirements and are one of the oldest living people in the world. But for many people in first world countries, the food they eat come from supermarkets, which stock almost every single produce item you can think of, the whole year round. So if I want to I could eat the same fruits and vegetables every day for a whole year, even strawberries in winter. Eating seasonally, could push us to broaden our horizon and discover locally grown foods, we otherwise never would have tried.
The fruits and vegetables have a higher nutritional value
Produce purchased in season is often fresher, consumed closer to harvesting and higher in nutritional value (some nutrients such as vitamin C, folate and carotene will rapidly decline when stored for periods of time). Foods that are stored for long periods of time due to transportation or to be used at a later date have a reduction in phytonutrient content. Not only are these foods more nutritious, but they also support your body’s natural nutritional needs. In winter, there is an abundance of all thing citrus, these are especially high in Vitamin C, which plays a big role in preventing infections such as colds and flu’s. Winter vegetables are perfect ingredients for warming comfort food such as stews, soups and casseroles. Summer foods, however, give us extra carotenoids and other anti-oxidants that help protect us against sun damage.
The food tastes a lot better
The best result of eating seasonally is that you not only get the healthiest, but also best tasting food available. The food is grown closer to you (it probably won’t spoil on its trip to the supermarket), its likely harvested at the peak of its season and sold during its season, before it spoils. So you are getting fruits and vegetables that haven’t had the time to lose their flavour or their health benefits during refrigerated transportation.
You will save money
When you buy what’s in season, you buy food that is at the peak of its supply, meaning that it costs less to farmers and distribution companies to harvest the food and get it to your supermarket. The foods that are out of season, have to be shipped from around the world to get to you, are usually picked before the peak of their flavour in order to survive the long transportation to your supermarket. They will therefore be more expensive, not only because of the time and distance, but also because of the large number of people involved with getting those food items to your grocery store.
You support local, more sustainable farmers
So if you buy seasonal, you probably end up eating local as well. And the same counts for the other way around, if you are eating local grown foods, you are probably eating what’s in season. When you eat seasonal a food distribution company doesn’t have to harvest early and store the produce in a warehouse for a while. By eating local, in season produce, you end up supporting local farmers, and if you shop at a nearby farmer’s market even more so.
It is more environmentally friendly
Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season produce which support more local produce and in result more local farming, all this means less transportation, less refrigeration, less irradiation of produce and less green houses.
Now you know some of the benefits of eating produce that is in season and locally grown, but what should I eat then? Which foods are in season when? There are a lot of seasonal produce guides available on the internet, like this one for when you live in America, or this one for Europeans, but I also have compiled a list of fruits and vegetables in season for each month of the year, the one for September consists of;
- asian pears
- bell peppers
- broad bean
- collard greens
- globe artichoke
- green beans
- honeydew melon
- spring onions
- swiss chard