So, we’re here in Spring and its lovely, especially as the weather is getting warmer, and with national restrictions lifted, it certainly feels like we can live a more ‘normal’ life again. We have waited for this day and historically, Spring is a season where wildlife comes out of hibernation, we can see blossoms bloom, buds on trees and plant life becomes colourful again.
So much comes alive in this season, and it’s a good time to look at eating seasonally. The likes of asparagus, strawberries, kiwis, limes and leafy greens are such a colourful array of produce that is abundant now. Eating seasonally is good for us on so many levels. There’s no doubt about it. We hear this again and again, but why?
Here are 6 reasons why eating seasonally is not only good for us and our budgets, it’s also better for our local environment, and for the planet too.
(picture credit Elimira lotti)
The first reason why eating seasonally is good for us is that the produce is readily available. Our ancestors, the hunter gatherers ate what the earth provided for them. Whether it was nuts, berries, leaves, root or flowers, they ate what was seasonal and available. Nature has a way of supplying what we need and when we need it, foragers will tell you about how the wild foods of spring are quite peppery, such as hedge garlic or wild garlic which is abundant in this time of year, the reason why some wild herbs are ‘spicier’ at this time is because these greens help with the animals’ lethargic body systems that have come from a long sluggish hibernation winter. For us, in winter, root vegetables are abundant and the roots captures a lot of energy and minerals from the soil and are often a great source of energy and vitamins. In summer, nuts and seeds are abundant, and as nuts are a great source of fats, one can see the squirrels collecting and harvesting hazelnuts and hiding them as a food source for the later months. Sometimes, looking at nature and what is readily available gives us clues on the best foods to eat.
2. More Nutritious
Did you know the less the fruit or vegetable has travelled or been handled, the more nutritious it is? The nutrients are also more bioavailable which means that the nutrients are more readily available to our bodies. When the fruit or vegetable is just picked the enzymes in the produce are still ‘live’. These enzymes are beneficial to our digestive systems which play a major part in our immune systems and health. So, eating fresh, seasonal, unprocessed food is a crucial part of making the most of our foods nutritionally. We often hear that our ‘guts’ are our second brains so it’s worth noting to look after our immune and digestive health.
3. Taste Profile
Have you ever wondered why in certain countries you may eat more of one vegetable or fruit? For instance, mangos in Asia, or beef tomatoes or oranges from the Mediterranean countries always seem to taste better. Well, firstly there’s an abundance of sun, and many of these foods were produced, harvested, then served. So, the time in which food is harvested and eaten is minimal.
A freshly picked tomato or apple is always going to taste better than a plastic packaged one that has been sweating in their packaging. Even having a few fresh grown windowsill herbs means that a pasta dish can taste so much better than using dry herbs. The less preservatives used to keep food from spoiling and other preservation processes means that you eat the fruit or vegetable as it is and the taste as it should be. The term ‘farm to fork’ is a great term describing food that is harvested from the farm straight to our dinner tables. Eating food that tastes its optimum best, fresh and in season, is worth doing every time!
4. Save Money
Saving money is on a lot of peoples minds right now, especially given the rise of fuel prices and petrol. Eating seasonally means that one is inevitably saving money. Food that is shipped from another country means that their transport costs are going to be factored into the product. For instance, if you see the price of strawberries in the summer compared to the winter, you will automatically see how much more it costs in the winter. Fruit or vegetables that have to travel means that a transportation cost, refrigeration cost and other preserving costs such as food irradiation are priced in. Food irradiation is a way to preserve food for a longer shelf life but it’s main use is, through ionizing radiation is to kill off harmful bacteria or insects in the food. It is deemed a safe process but nonetheless has a cost. Food travelled from another country is always going to cost more. That is why home-grown fruit and vegetables always seem to have a longer shelf life, which is another way to save money too as there’s less food waste.
5. Better for the Planet
In addition to the last point of saving money, eating seasonally is better for the planet as less carbon emissions are released through transportation, there’s less packaging waste, and less crops are grown for all year-round demands, resulting in deforestation, loss of diversity and extinction in species, and soil erosion.
One example of a problematic scenario is the wonderful nutrient packed humble avocado, according to Statista , the largest producer of avocados in the world is Mexico, and more and more plantations are dedicated to growing this lucrative ‘commodity’ that it’s harming the planet. It’s not all doom and gloom, and we’re certainly not saying it’s bad to eat avocados but it’s worth being mindful and conscious of which crops are heavily farmed at the expense of the planet. There are other crops to be mindful of too such as palm oil, corn, sugar and coffee. Checking out food provenance and whether foods are farmed sustainably often gives us a better picture so we can make more informed choices.
6. Supporting Local Producers
Another reason to buy seasonal is to support local producers. We’ve talked about the taste of fresh produce, the costs and the earth friendly benefits of eating seasonal. Supporting local farmers and producers means that there is sustainability in their supplies as their businesses are supported. Although we often only see the produce when they’re on sale, local farmers have livelihoods too and work all year around. Buying local means that one can buy in a more seasonal way, where often meat produced more humanely, crops are more tended to and less mass produced and we as the consumers all feel more healthier and live better as a result. We are guided by what is on offer as opposed to wanting a food on demand.
Enjoy Spring in all it has to offer and do check out a local food farm near you!