At first glance, it might seem like a blessing, being able to wander into a supermarket and pick up a punnet of strawberries in the middle of winter. Or what about those parsnips to accompany your roast dinner... in August? Convenience aside, there’s a lot to be said for eating seasonal, local produce instead; this could offer benefits to your health, budget... and even the environment.
Below are five reasons why eating seasonally just might be preferable (and why going organic is easier when the season is the reason).
Seasonal produce is more nutrient-dense
Don’t conclude that if it’s a piece of fruit or veg, it’s good for you by default; produce that’s forcibly grown may not have the necessary conditions it requires to thrive. Mother nature ensures soil conditions (and thus nutrient availability), sunlight, climate, water and so on are just right, leading to a good yield of crops that are arguably, better for you.
This is where imported fruit and veggies (grown in hotter or, occasionally, drier countries) seem to provide the solution. However, with sometimes thousands of air miles between field and fork, nutrient depletion is inevitable; they’ll no doubt be past their prime by the time they reach you. Another possibility is that they’re picked before their ready, to allow ripening to finish en route.
N.B. If you live in the UK, European produce (e.g. Spanish oranges) is marginally better than those from America, Australia, New Zealand and such.
It’s likely to provide what your body needs – nothing more, nothing less
The theory goes that during autumn/winter, your body is naturally attuned to craving heartier foods (think potatoes and winter squashes). When the weather gets warmer (umm, it does sometimes), goodies like sun-ripened tomatoes and berries can help to provide antioxidant protection against the sun’s rays. The latter are also higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
It tastes better
Here’s a little science project for you: take a photo of a summer-ripe strawberry, then taste it (yum, yum). Plan to repeat this in November; I guarantee there will be a noticeable difference. By which point you’ll have forgotten, and moved on to more pressing matters... but you get the idea.
Seasonal crops that have come from your local farmer’s market a few miles down the road will be fresher, ‘perkier’ – lending to better appearance and flavour – compared with their foreign cousins which have had to travel much further.
There’s less exposure to pesticides, ripening agents and other ‘nasties’.
Further to the first point, leaving nature to take its course requires less intervention to encourage growth, which (usually) limits the use of pesticides. Other chemical agents used for ripening and preservation are often added to imported fruit and veggies; all of this can impact the environment.
If you can’t quite afford to go organic, seasonal and local is perhaps the next best thing, given the above.
You’ll save the pennies.
Fruit and veggies in season cost less money, since they’re more available; this is the rule of supply and demand. Thus, if you do want to switch to organic varieties, this is the way to do it. It’s far cheaper to buy organic, local produce that’s in season. Given the aforementioned, this seems like the smartest move all round.