For many, eating with the seasons is a way of life. Eating seasonally benefits the individual, the family, the larger community, and the environment. For those who are not gardeners, farmers’ markets and other local vendors provide a bountiful array of seasonal fruits and vegetables of which everyone can take advantage.
When produce is trucked across country for out of season distribution (tomatoes in winter, for example), its nutritive value declines. Many vegetables that are shipped long distances are picked early or sprayed to delay ripening. Eating locally grown food can help limit exposure to chemicals and lend support to small regional farms.
Nothing can compare to the freshness of a hand picked tomato from your garden or peas from the farmers’ market. If you grow your own fruits and vegetables without using chemical sprays, you don’t need to peel them. Leaving the peels on fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, apples, and potatoes, adds important minerals, vitamins, and fiber to our diets. Each region has different fruits and vegetables that are in season throughout the year.
Eating seasonally means not eating fresh tomatoes, peas, zucchini, and peppers in winter. It means focusing on the outstanding selection of foods that are available throughout each season. It is exciting to wait for asparagus, rhubarb, beans and peas in the spring; cucumbers, berries, and corn in the summer; winter squash and apples in the fall; and root vegetables in the winter.
Freezing or canning can help provide you with summer foods, like tomatoes or string beans, in winter. Combine all of this with regional products such as local meats, cheeses, maple syrup, and honey, and you have a well-stocked regional and seasonal kitchen!
Throughout the year, the seasonal eater is exposed to a whole variety of different fruits and vegetables. A person who is not a seasonal eater may fall into a cycle of consuming the same foods throughout the year, with little diversity and a greater potential for illness.
Tomorrow...tips on how to eat locally.