Eat with the seasons. It’s one of the many ‘buzzword’ pieces of advice thrown around by foodies, environmentalists, and dieters alike. But with most produce available year-round courtesy of national grocery chains, is it really something you should try or just another fashionable food fad? Actually, seasonal eating has a wide variety of benefits for your family, the community, and the planet. If you need some convincing, here are three reasons why it’s worth trying to incorporate seasonal produce into your family’s diet.
Out of season food is mostly flown in from its country of origin. A quick look at the labels on fresh produce in grocery stores should tell you where the product was grown, and how far it’s travelled. Planes are still one of the leading producers of the carbon emissions known to have a damaging effect on the environment. By eating seasonal produce, grown locally, you are helping limit your environmental impact and reducing your carbon footprint.
And all this travel takes time. Food picked and flown over continents, or even just cross-country, can take several days to arrive on the shelves of your local grocery store. To keep it looking fresh, food which has travelled significant distances may have been exposed to a variety of preservation techniques. These can include controlling the amount of oxygen in the containers, manipulating the temperature, or even using chemical sprays. All of these techniques can potentially affect the flavor and nutritional value of your food.
Support local business
Eating food in season means it is more likely to be available from producers and suppliers close to you. Local producers and small businesses suffer constantly from the discount sales techniques of huge grocery store chains, with many being forced out of business each year. But, with the recent surge in the number of farmer’s markets, it has never been easier to buy locally grown produce.
There are several benefits to shopping at farmer’s markets. Buying direct from the grower means you have the opportunity to learn a bit about how your food is produced. Most sellers will be more than happy to answer questions about where the food is from, what farming methods they use, whether they use chemicals, and when the produce was picked. You don’t get that kind of information from a grocery chain. In addition, the money spent at a farmer’s market is going straight into benefitting your local economy, rather than lining the pockets of a multi-national corporation.
Taste and nutrition
Eating in season means that food is likely to be fresher. The nutrients in food deplete over time so fresh food has more nutritional value than food which has travelled several days, or even weeks, to get to you. Time also affects the flavor of foods. Why not try this for yourself? Buy two apples, tomatoes, or packs of berries – one from a local supplier, and one from your local grocery chain – and have a taste test at home.
Freezing and canning also preserve the nutritional value of food, due to the speed of processing after harvest. However, the freezing and canning processes alter the texture, and sometimes the taste, of foods. Compare the consistency of fresh, frozen (thawed), and canned carrots and you’ll see the difference. You really can’t beat fresh produce.
Of course, eating seasonal produce might mean making some adjustments to your family menus. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of making the same few meals over and over. Dealing with brand new ingredients can be intimidating, and there is always the risk of disappointment. Luckily finding menu ideas has never been easier, and a small amount of research will minimize that risk. Recipe websites are plentiful, and some sites such as www.cookingwithnoah.com are cleverly organized by season to make searching even more simple. Experiment and have fun, who knows, you may discover a new favorite food.