Do you consciously try to eat with the seasons, following local growing patterns and choosing fruit and vegetables when they are at their natural best? Or, like so many of us, have you lost touch with nature and the natural growing cycle of our food? If you have, it’s not surprising. It takes a bit of effort to eat seasonally these days.
I have noticed in my lifetime, a distinct change in the availability of fruit and vegetables throughout the year. Now you can find almost any fruit and vegetable all year round if you look hard enough (and are prepared to pay a little bit more). And yet, in spite of this, when I quiz my naturopathic clients about their food intake I often find it is lacking in variety. The shopping basket is filled with the same four or five fruits and vegetables, week in week out. Lunch is a choice between one or two recurrent options. Does this sound familiar to you?
When I was young (a long, long time ago), we used to wait with salivating expectation for the summer fruits to come in. We had a plum tree, a passionfruit vine, raspberries and tomatoes growing in the garden. I can vividly remember watching the fruit form and ripen, waiting for the day when mum would let me go out and start picking them. And we would go out and check for newly ripened fruit each day over the holidays. (Sometimes the raspberries didn’t even make it into the house.)
I’m afraid the younger generations may have lost some of this knowledge of how and where our food comes from but it is great to see some schools introducing veggie gardens.
Now, with hot houses, cool stores, early harvesting and artificial ripening, air freight, global economies etc etc it feels like we have lost touch with the seasons and the natural rhythms of the earth. And perhaps, as a result, we have lost the benefits of growing our own or buying local, seasonal produce or even enjoying the art of preserving food for the off-season.
I know there are some people who think that it’s convenient to be able to get cherries or tomatoes all year round for example but eating with the seasons has a number of advantages.
The advantages of eating with the seasons and why it can make you happy
- smaller carbon footprint as food is less likely to have been shipped in from interstate or overseas
- improved flavour and nutritional content as a result of growing naturally with the season instead of artificially (or even months earlier and then stored for later sale as their nutrient levels slowly decline)
- saving money as produce is generally cheaper when it is at its most abundant and grown without the need for expensive artificial assistance
- supporting the local economy and local farmers
- increased variety in your diet instead of buying the same things week-in-week-out out of habit and better variety means less risk of running low in key vitamins and minerals
- eating foods that are best suited to our seasonal needs (think cooling cucumbers and juicy watermelon in the heat of summer or oranges rich in vitamin C for winter).
One of the best ways to ensure you are eating fruit and vegetables at their seasonal best (if you can’t grow them yourself) is to shop at your local market.