You may or may not have heard the call to ‘eat seasonally’. In a world of 24-hour supermarkets, where the shelves are stocked with produce from every corner of the world every single day, it can be easy to forget about how and when things grow. After all, our favourite fruits and vegetables always seem to be there and ready for us to pop in the trolley. But did you know there are some huge benefits to eating with the seasons?
What is ‘eating seasonally’?
The concept of eating seasonally is actually really simple. It involves eating foods that are grown at the same time as you eat them. As most fruits and vegetables are being grown somewhere in the world at any one time, eating seasonally more specifically concerns eating produce that’s being grown right now – locally.
The main aim of this? To minimise the time it takes for the fresh produce you buy to get from the ground or the tree to your plate. But why?
It saves you money
First and foremost, eating seasonally could keep your wallet heavier. When fruits and vegetables are out of season in your area, they either have to be grown in managed conditions or transported from the other side of the world. Both of these processes cost lots of money, and that cost gets passed on to you – the consumer. When you eat seasonally, local produce can be grown in natural conditions and easily transported to the point of sale, making it much more affordable.
It tastes better
You’d be surprised how far some foods have to travel to ensure they’re on the shelves 365 days a year. Out of season fruit and veg can spend days and weeks travelling to get to you, and this comes with a price. Either they’re picked earlier than they should be so that they’re ready on arrival, or they spoil a little on the way. Whichever happens – flavour and freshness are compromised on-route.
Seasonal produce comes such a short distance that it doesn’t spoil on the way to you. It’s harvested at the very best time, so taste is maximised.
For the same reason seasonal fruit and veg tastes better, it’s also healthier. It’s no surprise that being locked in cargo holds and shipping containers for days, in order to reach us, does nothing for the nutritional content of the food. In fact, in many cases it’s detrimental. As a rule of thumb; the fresher the better, and you can’t get much fresher than eating seasonally-grown local produce.
It supports your local community
When you buy foods out of season, the profits are swallowed up by the grower, the transporter and the retailer – and it’s a safe bet that none of these are based in your local area. Growers in your region don’t down tools out of season; they’ll be churning out fruit and veg all year round. By buying what they produce, you’ll constantly be feeding the profits back into your own community.
It’s kinder to the planet
Be it by plane, train or automobile – when food has to come a long way to get to you, it comes with a carbon footprint. Of course every apple you buy has had a journey to get to store – but it’s a safe bet that the apple that’s come from a farm 50 miles away as it’s in season here, compared with one that’s had to come from South Africa, has had a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable trip.
When you make a concerted effort to eat seasonally, you’ll find yourself introduced to foods and dishes that you may not have considered before. It’s often said that limitation is the key to creativity; who knows what meals you might end up rustling up. As the seasons change, you’ll get plenty of variety in your diet too.
How can I eat seasonally?
Working out what’s seasonal in your area might seem difficult, but it’s easier than you think. Keep an eye on prices in the supermarkets – if they’re falling it’s a good sign that that food is coming into season, while high prices suggest it’s out of season.
Farmers markets are a great way to get your hands on quality local produce. You’ll be buying directly from your area, and there’s usually bargains to be found.
For great ideas on how to prepare your seasonal fruit and veg, check out some of our delicious recipes.