The first question I usually get asked about my blog is, “why eat seasonal?” A question that wouldn’t have crossed the lips of many generations before us because they quite simply had no other choice! Of course, the choice we have today, is in many ways, truly wonderful, but sometimes these choices lead us to forget where our food comes from and what benefits it is or is not having on our bodies.
Most people understand that eating the freshest produce is best from a nutritional point of view. Granted, freezing produce straight after picking is also a fantastic way to preserve nutrients, but for this article I am going to focus on “fresh” produce. Nutrients begin to erode very soon after fruit and vegetables are picked (the actual speed depends on many factors including the produce in question, and the conditions it is exposed to such as temperature and light). As such, the sooner you eat produce after it is picked the better!
If produce has to be flown half way round the world or stored for long periods so that it can be eaten out of season, it cannot possibly have the same nutritional value as food that is produced locally and eaten soon after harvesting. The other related factor is that in order to keep produce looking and tasting it’s best during storage and transport, chemicals are regularly used, something I personally like to avoid as much as possible.
The other nutritional benefit of eating seasonal food is that nature is pretty smart! Think about the types of produce available at different times of year and their nutritional value… in the summer you have lots of salad items and juicy fruit which are all water heavy so very hydrating for warmer weather, as well as great to eat raw. In winter, root vegetables and the squash family are among the best available. These are high in nutrients being slow growing, especially vitamin C which helps ward off those winter bugs and boost the immune system for the colder weather.
Environmental and ethical
Eating seasonal, local produce limits the carbon footprint and airmails of your meals. It also supports the local economy, all bonus reasons to eat seasonal!
There is a reason strawberries are cheapest in June… they are in abundance! Again, storing and transporting food for long periods or distances is costly. Shipping from field to shop just a few miles away keeps the costs down so you will find eating seasonal is the most cost effective way to pick your fresh produce.
And finally… taste
Linked to nutrition, food just tastes better in season. It hasn’t had to be forced into growing, stored, transported or covered in chemicals. Summer berries in December are just never going to have the sweetness of those in June!
So, let the seasons guide you… see what is abundant in farmers’ markets, what looks freshest, plumpest and tastiest and you really can’t go too wrong. But of course treating yourself to that occasional avocado or pineapple is perfectly acceptable too! I try and live by the 80/20 rule.. 80% local and seasonal with 20% exotic/ tropical items that you just can’t grow in the UK at any time of year (and yes, 90% of my 20% does consist of avocados…!)