Why it's important to shop seasonally
Posted on 4th July 2018 at 07:45
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the list of “dirtiest” fruit and vegetables for 2018. Released in America by the Environmental Working Group each year, it highlights the produce most contaminated with pesticides, rather than those most covered in soil (!).
The importance of what we eat is a topic we regularly cover in this blog – whether directly or indirectly – but, sadly, is still seen as being very complicated or expensive by far too many people. Neither are the case, although this doesn’t seem to stop some from making it so…
One very easy way to eat more healthily is simply to shop by the season. In other words to eat – and enjoy – whatever produce is in season right now. Whenever “right now” is. Not only does this mean that you’ll enjoy food at its best but also that it’s going to be produced locally, whether in your immediate area or country.
Here in the UK, we’re in the middle of the strawberry season. And there really is no comparison between the sweeter, juicer, bright red strawberries available now and the pale imitations found in the supermarket during the rest of the year.
There’s good reason why different foods are available at different times of the year. They reflect the different needs of those eating them – and we’re not just thinking about humans here!
During the winter months, starchy high fibre foods tend to be at their best, providing the fuel bodies need in the colder weather. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips and the like.
As spring comes, the leafy greens and fresh growth start to appear, helping the body to detox after the winter. They also provide the vitamins and minerals needed for the better weather ahead.
The summer brings watery salads and vegetables high in the potassium, magnesium and other salts to replace those lost in sweat. And don’t forget all the fruits, high in sugar to help lay down fat and other reserves for the coming winter.
Locally produced food has many other benefits too. It reaches your plate much more quickly and contains many more nutrients. It’s easy to forget that fruit and vegetables begin to lose their minerals and vitamins as soon as they’re harvested. So by the time they’ve been processed, stored and transported much of the goodness has been lost. And this is without them having being picked before they’re ripe to ensure that they reach the consumer before they become over ripe or spoiled. Or stored for many months before being sent to the supermarket.
A salutary reminder of this is one we came across many years ago, courtesy of a farming friend. This concerns the white cabbage you find in the supermarket. Have you ever seen a white cabbage in the field? Well, no. So have you ever thought about why it’s white?
It’s white for the simple reason that it’s been stored in a dark refrigeration unit for months – yes months – before it ever reaches the supermarket. During that time it slowly loses its colour and the green outer leaves are removed as they perish. Not surprisingly, by the time it reaches your plate it’s lost its colour and has very little in the way of taste or nutrition.
Eating seasonally means you'll be supporting local famers as well as cutting down on the dreaded food miles. The distance food travels between farm and plate. We’re not just thinking of your local farm shop or farmers market, but the many people in your particular area who sell off their excess produce at this time of year. Not only does it taste great but, as they produce it for their own consumption, it’s as near to organic and chemical free as you’re likely to get. Even better, it’s a fraction of the price you’d pay in a supermarket and can be easily frozen for the winter ahead, solving several problems at once! If you keep an eye out as you go about your day, you’d be amazed what you can find.
Finally, don’t forget how easy it is to grow many delicious fruit and vegetables for your own use at home regardless of how much room you’ve got. Sprouting seeds on the window sill, salad leaves in a tray, tomatoes or cucumbers in a tub. It doesn’t need to be complicated and there’s nothing to compare with the taste of your own home grown produce.
As always, the choice is yours.
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