IMPORTANCE OF EATING LOCAL AND SEASONAL PRODUCE
AUTHOR: Sarah Subrize
Each season brings its own energy. The softness and brightness of spring to the sweetness and lightness of summer, to the celebration of fall and the slowing down comfort of winter. Regardless of where you are located, even in Florida you can still feel these shifts in “seasons” even if they are not as dramatic elsewhere in the US or world.
If you’ve ever bitten into an out of season peach in the middle of winter compared to a local peach in it’s prime, you’ve probably had a hard time ignoring the fact that in-season produce is a treat for the taste buds and often the latter is rather disappointing. Regardless, due to advancements in modern agriculture and international imports you can find just about any fruit or vegetable you have on your grocery list year-round in North America. Having access to all fruits and veggies all year long isn’t all negative but eating with the seasons comes with a host of benefits. Seasonal and local food is naturally fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than food consumed out of season or shipped from far away. It also reduces your carbon footprint and helps you form a connection with your local community.
Here are some of the best reasons to eat by the seasons and as locally as possible:
Locally grown food is full of flavor.
Most people will agree that nothing tastes better than fresh locally grown tomatoes or strawberries picked in their prime of spring or early summer. There is no argument that they are much more flavorful and even sweeter than the ones you buy at the supermarket year-round. 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 larger distances, they must be harvested pre-ripeness 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.
Local, in-season foods retain more nutrients.
Produce grown locally has a shorter time between harvest and your table, and it is less likely that the nutrient value has decreased. Food imported from far-away states and countries is often older, has traveled and sits in distribution centers before it even gets to your place of purchase.
It is better for the environment.
Think about it: How far did the asparagus, pear, or bag of greens you bought at your local grocery store travel before it was stocked on the shelves?
Most of us give little thought to the effects of this long-distance travel on not only the nutritional value of our food and the costs but also the environmental impact, including fuel emissions. Imported fruits and vegetables travel way further than produce grown locally, they also cause greater harm from carbon emissions and pollution for produce arriving by air, ship or by truck. A more mind-blowing detail is that more than half of the fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy now come from other countries. 1
Buying what is local is a great way to eat seasonally. Plus, these foods don’t have to travel nearly as far, so the associated fuel emissions and transportation costs are minimal. Sticking to local produce can be a great way to help discover what is in season near you. And this combination of seasonal plus local is better for the environment.
It allows for connection to and support of our communities.
When you can meet and speak with the people that grow your food or at least visit a market where you can purchase the produce brings you one step closer to the root of it all and creates a much more inspired energy around the food. Think of it in a way that the energy you receive from the food not only comes from the earth via nutrients, but the energy it took the people tending to and growing the produce. You do not get that kind of connection sorting through mini mountains of produce at the grocery stores. Shopping local and coincidentally seasonally creates a renewed sense of connection to the community in which you live.
Purchasing locally grown foods also helps support the livelihoods of our local farms and farmers. Simply put, the money you spend on products from local farmers and growers stays in the community and is reinvested with other local businesses. In addition, food grown locally, processed locally, and distributed locally (for example, to local restaurants and stores) generates jobs and subsequently helps stimulate our micro economies.
We often take it for granted that we can eat fresh berries in February or have mini mountains of avocados stocked in the stores year-round not even thinking twice to where it came from or how it got from the “farms” to our plates. Many of us have no clue when fruits and veggies are in season where we live.
Knowing what is in season, and eating to match that, is important. Choosing in-season, locally grown produce when possible has been shown to have numerous benefits for your health, community, and environment. Explore your local markets today!