What is seasonal eating? Quite simply, to eat seasonally means to consume fruits and vegetables only during the time of year, or season, in which they are harvested. Our ancestors ate seasonal food because they didn’t have much of a choice. They didn’t have the option of going to the local supermarket and buying strawberries in January or asparagus trucked in from across the country. Living off the land ensured that what they were eating was fresh and nutrient-dense—and of course it was unadulterated by pesticides, chemicals, or crop modification. We, on the other hand, need to make a conscious and educated choice in selecting only those foods that are grown seasonally and locally. Why you may ask? Here are some of the benefits that you’ll achieve by choosing only seasonal produce next time you are at your local market.
It’s more nutritious
As soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested, nutritional breakdown occurs. Many vitamins present in fruits or vegetables before harvesting are highly unstable and are largely depleted a few days after harvest. Out of season produce is usually shipped in many miles before reaching your local market. The more miles and days it is in transit, the more it loses its nutritional value. Buying produce at its height of seasonality means you will be getting foods that have much higher antioxidant content than non-seasonal foods and they will have an overall better nutritional content. They will also be fresher and better tasting.
It’s less expensive
Buying things out of season means long shipping times, fuel costs, and other factors that all add up to a higher price tag in the end. Even if fruits and vegetables aren’t shipped a great distance, growing out-of-season produce in a greenhouse still adds up to more energy (costs), which is passed on to you the consumer. Eating seasonally means buying things that can be grown locally (or relatively locally), in their natural surroundings, weather, and climate conditions. Less energy and less transit time means cheaper price tags in the end.
It’s better for the environment
By eating seasonally and locally, you also help to protect the environment by not consuming foods that take large amounts of fuel and energy to be shipped across the country. In buying local, you are helping your local farmers and supporting your local economy. Eating seasonally may not always be convenient, but if you can find local food providers in your area you will be doing a world of good for yourself, your family, your local economy, and the environment.
How to Shop In Season
What’s in season depends on where you live. Growing seasons vary. For example, the produce will be different in Miami from what is grown in Kansas at the same time of the year. Seek out your local farmers’ markets to learn about produce seasonality for your area. I have learned a lot from my local farmer purchases. I’ve learned when and where these items grow near me, and that has informed how I cook and what I serve my family. Learning the seasonal growing patterns in your area will be a great value. You’ll get the freshest, most nutritious food and help your community and the environment. There are resources on the web that will help in guiding you in what is fresh and in season for your specific state and region.