You might not have given much thought in the past to the notion of eating ‘seasonally’ – in other words, eating certain foods at the times of year when they are actually grown. After all, you’re probably used to walking down your local supermarket’s veggie aisle during any season, and seeing no shortage of varied produce from around the globe.
Why, then, does eating seasonally make sense – for our health and wellbeing, as well as for our wider society and environment?
It tastes better
It is the modern lifestyle of convenience – including being able to obtain seemingly any and all fruits and vegetables immediately, at any time – that has probably most caused us to fall out of touch with seasonal eating in the first place. So, let’s focus on the most immediately attractive benefit of doing so – the fact that locally and seasonally grown food tends to be tastier.
We should probably emphasise at this point, that seasonally and locally grown food go hand in hand. At any given time of the year, almost any fruit or vegetable is being grown at least somewhere on our planet. But this means certain produce that is out of season where you are, will effectively take longer to go from the ground to your kitchen table.
That extra time taken – which could be as long as weeks in some cases – doesn’t help the food to taste as well as it could do. Freshness and flavour tend to be compromised by the lengthier journey.
It’s better for your health
While certain foods may be grown and made available out of season with the help of post-harvest treatments like ripening agents, the fact remains that growing a food out of season prevents it from following its natural growing and ripening rhythms. This has implications for its nutrient density.
The use of chemicals, heat and gases slows the maturation and ripening process, thereby enabling the out-of-season growth of certain foods. Past research has indicated, however, that artificially ripened produce often lacks nutritional value compared to its naturally ripened equivalent.
A study looking at the vitamin C content of broccoli, meanwhile, found that this green vegetable’s level of the vitamin was higher when it was grown during its peak season.
It’s better for your wallet
It sounds like common sense when you think about it, but it’s worth emphasising nonetheless; if a given fruit or vegetable is in season near you right now, there will be more of it around, so its price in the supermarket is likely to be lower.
Even if a particular food is grown near you out of season, it’ll need to have the aforementioned treatment processes applied to it – and it’ll have to be transported a lot further to reach you. These are all factors that cost money, and which will therefore push up the price you pay for it.
It’s better for your local community
It’s in all of our interests for our local area to be doing well economically. Buying local products from local people keeps more money in your community, which helps keep local people’s incomes high and jobs secure, while even possibly creating new jobs.
As we’ve touched on above, eating foods that are in season also often means eating foods that are locally grown. So, by buying the fruit and veggies that growers in your region are churning out right now, you can help ensure they keep more of the profits, with less money being swallowed up by other processes like post-harvest treatments or transportation.
It’s better for the environment
Again – and as we’ve all had to come to terms with down the years – the environment isn’t something disconnected from us; it is us and our world. So, whatever you can do to better protect our environment is important – and buying and eating seasonally is definitely one thing you can do.
Food that isn’t in season near you routinely has to be transported much further, including by car, train or plane. A journey across the world, rather than simply from another part of the same country, adds to the given food’s carbon footprint.
As for out-of-season food that is still grown near you, it’s likelier that this will have been subject to significant doses of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. These are toxic compounds that can move through soil, contaminate water and adversely affect human health – so, produce in this category can be notoriously environmentally unfriendly, too.
Eating seasonally, then, isn’t just some ‘chic’ thing to do, or even a gesture against the less positive effects of globalisation. That’s because it also genuinely can help you, your health, and even the economic and personal wellbeing of your wider community.