Have you ever tasted a farm-fresh heirloom tomato in the late summer and wondered if you’ve eaten a tomato before? Eating with the seasons really makes a difference in the taste and nutritional content, plus it’s the most eco-friendly choice. Here are five reasons to shop seasonal:
As fruits and vegetables mature, their vitamin and antioxidant levels typically increase at the same time. It also makes sense that a plant following its preferred seasonal cycle would be richer in nutritional content than one that is trying to mature under less than ideal conditions. Once produce is harvested, it is no longer benefiting from the constant supply of nutrients it receives as a growing plant. That means there is an optimal time to pick and consume produce to get the most nutritional content: in season, at peak ripeness and eaten shortly after it’s plucked from the earth.
The best restaurants go to great lengths to source ripe, seasonal ingredients and cooking at home should be no different. Think of it as your own fine dining experience with a menu that’s constantly changing in celebration. Peak-season produce doesn’t require much to bring out the flavors that exist naturally. Following farm to table basics means you can consistently rely on olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of citrus to make your dish shine while adopting an ingredients-first approach to your cooking.
Selecting seasonal ingredients implies that you’re shopping based on your geographic location. We don’t often think about the distance that some of our produce travels to reach our store shelves, and opting for items that can be grown locally means you’re reducing your overall carbon footprint. Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as buying things that are grown locally. Technology allows us to mimic seasons by growing indoors, but this uses a lot of energy as well. That’s why the combination of local and seasonal is the best rule of thumb.
Supporting Local Farmers
The ability to eat with the seasons is only possible when we have local farmers to grow our food. Not only are we supporting our community, but we ensure that fresh food remains a key element of our society. It also helps support and maintain heirloom varieties that are native to the region. It’s easy to forget that there are many variations of our favorite fruits and vegetables. Local farms that prioritize quality over quantity tend to honor varietals that aren’t commonly found in the supermarket year round.
How can you argue with nutritious, full-flavor ingredients at a bargain? Seasonal shopping means you’re buying produce that is in abundance and therefore offered at a reasonable price compared to other times of the year. You can usually tell what’s in season at the store based on what’s being promoted by the grocer. Look for special prices and items that are prominently displayed.
Focusing on seasonal ingredients also lends itself to a healthier diet overall. When you build your meals around what’s fresh and in season, you naturally gravitate to the produce aisle to start your shopping. Here are some resources to get you up to speed on what you should be filling your Urban Market Bags with this month.
Seasonal Food Guide - with the option to select your state and the month
Find a local farmers market or farm
How to tell if produce is ripe
7 tips for climate-wise eating