For people who want fresher, tastier, and more nutritious produce, seasonal eating is the way to go. Now, this isn’t a new trend – it’s actually the way people have been eating for centuries. But with easy transport of goods around the world and the advent of the modern supermarket, somewhere along the line this way of eating got lost.
A Short Guide to Healthy Seasonal Eating
The principle behind seasonal eating is simple: purchasing and consuming food around the time it was harvested. For example, getting strawberries in season in New York state means buying them in June or July, when the harvest is ripe.
Why eat seasonally?
There are some big benefits to this way of eating. First, the food is fresher and more nutrient-dense. Out-of-season produce is generally harvested before it’s ripe to allow time for it to be packed, shipped, and distributed to supermarkets. This is why sometimes you need to let fruits and vegetables ripen when you bring them home.
In contrast, fruit and vegetables from local farms don’t have to travel long distances and are therefore much fresher when they reach the consumer. They’re also picked at the peak of their ripeness and therefore tend to be more full of flavor. Research has found that fruits and vegetables that are allowed to ripen naturally on their parent plant have more nutrients, so they’re also better for you.
When you buy from local growers, you have the opportunity to learn about how the food was grown. In addition to being more confident about the farming practices behind food you’re consuming, knowing the ‘who’ and ‘how’ behind the food connects you to it in a way you simply can’t match by purchasing from a grocery store.
Eating seasonally can also have a significant impact on your wallet. Buying food at the peak of its supply means that prices tend to be lower. And since it hasn’t been shipped halfway around the world through multiple distributors, the produce requires less of a markup to ensure those people get paid.
How to start eating more in-season
While the principle of seasonal eating is simple, putting it into practice definitely has some challenges. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Learn about what’s in season in your area.
To buy seasonal produce, you have to know what that means in the area you live in. There are plenty of online resources that you can check out, but a great way to learn more is to visit your local farmer’s market. While they’re more plentiful in the summer, many places have year-round (in some cases, indoor) markets where local farmers sell seasonal goods.
Sign up for a local CSA program.
Community-supported agriculture programs, or CSAs, are booming right now. While they all vary a bit, CSAs are partnerships between local farmers and consumers with mutual benefits: they allow independent farms to thrive and families to consistently eat fresh, seasonal produce. You usually sign up between December and April for the coming growing season, paying for your share of fruits and/or vegetables up front. Once growing season is in full swing, you’ll receive weekly deliveries of fresh food boxes from approximately May through October.
Read the labels at your local supermarket.
While most supermarkets carry plenty of produce that’s been shipped in from abroad, they also tend to have plenty of local offerings. Take a look at the labels to see where the items they carry come from, and don’t hesitate to purchase things that are from your province or state, even if you’ve never tried them before! Eating seasonally brings a great opportunity to introduce new foods and try new recipes.
Follow food blogs.
Many food bloggers focus on seasonal eating, creating recipes based on the fruits and vegetables plentiful at that time of year. Sign up for their mailing lists and enjoy seasonal recipes delivered to your inbox on a regular basis.
Everything in moderation
Let’s be clear about something: this doesn’t mean you onlyhave to eat what’s in-season and grown locally. If you love avocados and oranges but they aren’t grown in your area, it’s perfectly fine to continue buying imported avocados and Florida oranges. Rather than turning your life upside-down to stick only to what’s in season right now, introduce some seasonal foods into your regular grocery shop and work to find a healthy balance.