Why Eat Seasonal?

Eat local. Eat what’s in season. Eat organic…. Confused by multiple messages about what to eat and where to buy it?  We’ve looked into eating seasonal food and here’s why you should really do it.

Taste and Nutritiousness

For most of us, the taste of the food we buy is every bit as important as the cost, if not more so. When food is not in season locally, it’s either grown in a hothouse or shipped in from other parts of the world, and both affect the taste. Compare a dark red, vine-ripened tomato still warm from the summer sun with a winter hothouse tomato that’s barely red, somewhat mealy, and lacking in flavor. When transporting crops, they must be harvested early and refrigerated so they don’t rot during transportation. They may not ripen as effectively as they would in their natural environment and as a result they don’t develop their full flavor. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about eating five servings a day of flavorless fruits and vegetables and it’s even harder to get your children to be enthusiastic about it.

Foods that are available out of season have generally been stored for long periods or shipped from halfway around the world to ensure a steady supply year round. Certain nutrients like vitamin C and cell-protecting phytochemicals are particularly susceptible to losses from prolonged storage and transportation. All fruits and vegetables start to lose nutrients immediately after they are harvested, so the best produce is the freshest. Seasonal local food is also less likely to be covered with preservatives, fungicides and waxes that are used to treat imported, out of season produce in order for it to withstand the trip from the farm to the store.

To enjoy the full taste and nourishment of food, you must make your menu seasonal. In different parts of the world, and even in different regions of one country, seasonal menus can vary. But here are some overriding principles you can follow to ensure optimal nourishment in every season:

  • In spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of this season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including swiss chard, romaine lettuce, spinach, fresh herbs, parsley, basil, dandelion greens…
  • In summer, stick with light, cooling foods in the tradition of Chinese medicine. These foods include fruits like strawberries, apples, pears, and plums; vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, corn; spices and seasonings like peppermint and cilantro.
  • In fall, turn toward more warming, autumn harvest foods, including carrot, sweet potato, beans, onions, and garlic. Also emphasize the more warming spices and seasonings including ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds.
  • In winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods. Remember the principle that foods taking longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. So consume most of the root vegetables, including carrot, potato, onions and garlic. Eggs also fit in here, as well as do corn, nuts and beans.

Diversity

We are encouraged to eat a variety of foods to provide our bodies with the full spectrum of essential nutrients needed for health and vitality. Most of us also enjoy a change every now and then. So try something different from the farmer’s market that you wouldn’t normally choose and find a recipe for it.

It is better for the environment

Food that is shipped and trucked all over the world increases our carbon footprint. It requires more fuel and energy for transport and emits more pollution contributing to global warming and unhealthy air quality. Additionally, to withstand the time, distance, and temperature fluctuations of travel and storage, produce is often chemically treated so that it doesn’t spoil or ripen before it gets to the stores. Local seasonal food on the other hand travels short distances, requiring less packaging and processing.

Price

Seasonal produce is more abundant and comes from local sources, so it is cheaper than in the supermarkets. Healthy cooking and eating doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money buying food – it just comes down to a little more planning and making the effort to fit it into your busy lifestyle.

Culture

Buying food from local farmers markets is the perfect way to stay in touch with what is in season and build relationships with the amazing people producing local food. It’s important to know where your food has come. This doesn’t always mean it needs to be organic, but rather ethically produced, honest and clean.

Disadvantages of Eating Seasonally

We are limited to what is available each season
Actually it creates more variety than limits. But it may cause us to step out of our comfort zone. When we switch to seasonal food consuming, it opens up a whole new world of combinations that we may never have tried yet.

Certain food may never become available
Some foods may never be available due to the very nature of the local environment and climate. At some times of year such as severe winter, there is almost no seasonal food around, and in certain regions it is impossible even to grow certain food.

Tips for Eating Seasonally

Depending on where you live or your lifestyle, it may be difficult to eat only local seasonal foods. Healthy eating is about balance and first and foremost about addressing your own personal nutritional requirements so there are no hard or strict rules to this. But there are steps that most people can take to get started.

  1. Identify the products that grow within 100 – 150 km of where you live and when they grow.
  2. Reduce consumption of imported foods by shopping at your local farmer’s market.
  3. Can, dry, pickle, freeze or ferment seasonal food so you don’t have to buy imported when it’s out of season.
  4. Look for the restaurants and cafes that support locals and have menus with seasonal offers.

Autumn Arugula Salad with Squash and Pomegranate Ginger Sauce

IngredientsAutumn-Arugula-Salad-with-Caramelized-Squash-Spiced-Pecans-and-Pomegranate-Ginger-Vinaigrette-6

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium squash, sliced in 1/2-inch thick rounds and seeds removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup  pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spices
  • 5-6 cups arugula
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 pomegranate, arils removed
  • 1 cucumber, sliced

Pomegranate Ginger Sauce

  • 1/3 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, freshly grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spices

  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of cardamom

Combine all spices together and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.

Directions

Heat in oven to the medium heat. Cover the squash slices with salt, pepper and coconut oil,  cook until golden, about 5 minutes per side. If desired, add brown sugar to help the squash to caramelize. Add arugula to a large bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add in avocado, pomegranate, cucumber, pecans and squash pieces. Cover with the pomegranate dressing.

Pomegranate Ginger Sauce
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. Stream in the olive oil while constantly whisking until the dressing comes together. Store in the fridge for up to one week.