November 17, 2020
I’ve been trying to eat seasonally for a few years now. While it’s arguably not possible 100% of the time, seasonal eating means that when I go to the grocery store, I try to choose vegetables and fruits at the time of year when they are naturally being harvested. Of course, these days most produce is being grown and harvested somewhere in the world at any one time, which is why eating seasonally, specifically, refers to eating fruits and vegetables that are being grown right now —- locally.
Less than 100 years ago, nobody would have called it “seasonal eating” —- people simply ate what was on hand. But nowadays, with our globalized food system, supermarket shelves are stocked, year-round, with produce from all over the world.
With that kind of access, why would consumers want to by-pass the opportunity to eat what they want, whenever they want it?
Below are five reasons why eating seasonally is the best idea for you and the environment:
- Food eaten in season tastes better — Produce is fresher and more flavorful when it’s perfectly ripe. Compare sweet luscious strawberries grown locally in early summer to the too-firm, tasteless berries that are shipped from afar for winter consumption. The out-of-season fruits and veggies that we see on supermarket shelves are often picked earlier than they should be so that they can ripen en route. Seasonal produce, on the other hand, is harvested at the perfect time and only need travel a short distance so that neither taste nor texture is compromised.
- Eating seasonally saves money — Out-of-season produce has to be grown in managed conditions and/or shipped long distances in order to be available all year long at our local supermarkets. Both of these processes cost a lot of money, and that cost gets passed on to the consumer. Seasonal fruits and veggies, on the other hand, are local so can be grown in natural conditions and quickly transported when they are at their peak of freshness.
- Local, in-season produce is more nutritious — Most produce begins to lose its nutritional value soon after it’s harvested. Fruits and vegetables that are shipped long distances are essentially “leaking” nutrients along the way. In that case, the fresher the better —- and it doesn’t get fresher than eating seasonally-grown, local produce.
- Seasonal eating is better for the environment — Just because we’re able to eat blueberries in, say, January, it doesn’t always mean that we should. When we consider that many of our fruits and veggies, especially in the dead of winter, are shipped from hundreds, if not, thousands of miles away, then we also have to consider the carbon footprint of what we eat. Eating seasonally means eating locally which results in significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions since our food has to travel fewer miles to get to our plates.
- Eating what’s in season supports local farming/our community — When we buy food out-of-season, the profits go to the grower, the transporter and the retailer —- none of which, most likely, are based in our local area. By buying from local farmers, our food dollars are returned to our own communities.
Seasonal eating doesn’t have to be a 100% commitment. Choosing just a few seasonal fruits or vegetables each week, while fore-going one or two out-of-season produce items, can save you money, improve your nutrient intake and help save the planet!