Ever noticed that there is just a different feel when you eat a mango that you have harvested from a tree in the summer or a tasty corn from your local farmer in the fall? Aside from the freshness of such products, it is just fulfilling to know that you are tapping directly from Mother Nature. Eating seasonal produce has been a trend since traditional times when processed foods were less popular among people.
In today's world, part of the reason behind the fewer people interested in seasonal produce is the many grocery stores and fast-food restaurants that have cropped up everywhere. Advances in farming and storage capabilities have made it possible for the same produce to stay in the market for even up to a year. The longer produce stays in the market, the more the chances that its quality gets compromised. Unknown to many people, eating seasonal produce is associated with many benefits, as discussed in the following section.
The process of farming, harvesting, and transporting seasonal produce is much friendlier to the environment than processed foods. Because much of the produce is grown closer to residential homes, potential environmental damages in the shipping of foods are significantly reduced because of the shorter distances. Less gas and fuel are needed to truck in produce to the stores. This reduces the carbon footprint that would otherwise arise from the transportation trucks as the fuel burns and, consequently, supports a more sustainable local economy.
When fruits are sources from overseas, one cannot tell whether their farming process considers the regulations that seek to control pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Every country has its standards on the use of chemicals on farm produce. Most of the laws in different countries are relaxed and create a loophole for unsustainable farming practices that put the environment at risk. With the recent trends in climate change, people need to ensure consumption practices that contribute to environmental protection and mitigate the effects of climate change. Environmental enthusiasts today encourage the sustainable production and consumption of food. Eating seasonal produce is one of the ways to be a custodian of the environment.
Seasonal produce is rich in flavour, mainly because they are grown and harvested without any additives and preservatives that alter the original taste of the produce. When you pick that mango when it is fully ripened, there is no need for using other methods to ripen it. This is unlike out of season produce, which is harvested earlier than they should, sprayed to ripen faster. Also, their chances of getting to the consumer when they are spoilt are high because they have not ripened naturally. As a consumer, you pay more for much lower quality, which does not guarantee as many health benefits.
Some of the chemicals used to ripen produce such as fruits only work to compromise the fantastic quality, including taste and freshness. Fresh seasonal produce is harvested at the right time and is hence riper, sweeter, and more delicious.
Nutritional and Health Benefits
Seasonal produce has greater nutritional value because they are grown naturally and are allowed to go through the normal ripening cycles. Foods grown out of season require more pesticides and fertilizers to facilitate their growth. Such additions reduce the nutritional value and compromise the produce ability to retain their nutrients and vitamins. When seasonal foods are allowed to grow and mature during suitable seasons, they acquire various nutrients and minerals in the process. Such seasonal yields are beneficial to our benefits through the minerals that perform specific functions in the body. For instance, vitamin C, zinc, and calcium components of a ripe mango help boost our bodies' immunity. Another example is the citrus fruits that mature in the winter. The fruits have Vitamin C that helps protect people from colds and infections common in the winter.
Health wise, seasonal produce is suitable for children not only because of their excellent taste but also as a source of nutrients and vitamins needed for their full growth and development.
When transporting out of season produce, most grocery stores have to use techniques such as blanching, tinning, and dehydration to increase the lifespan of fruits and vegetables, which leads to loss of nutrients. For those who have diet plans or are keen on their calorie intake, seasonal foods are the best because they are in the natural form without any additives that are usually high in calorie counts and can contribute to weight gain.
When you visit the supermarket, it is common to find price differences between local and seasonal foods and the rest. The process of farming, harvesting, and transporting locally sourced seasonal produce is comparatively cheaper than that of out-of-season foods. Seasonal foods also save money because they are produced in abundance, reducing the cost of production per pound. Some out-of-season foods involve extra costs such as pesticides, fertilizers, facilities (such as a greenhouse). Other additional costs for out-of-season foods come from transportation, shipping, storage, and preservation.
It makes sense to choose foods that will guarantee the best taste, offer nutritional value, and help you save on costs in the end. Out-of-season foods are costly, less tasty, and carry less nutritional content.
Most seasonal foods are locally grown by farmers within the community. Buying and eating such foods provides a market for such farmers and helping them expand their markets. This encourages money circulation within the economy because money spent locally is most often re-invested into the local community. It helps give rise to jobs and contribute to better living standards within the community.
Buying seasonal produce locally also helps support the local supply chain, building its resilience and strengthening it to provide supplies more consistently. When you purchase foods from a local farmer, you are sure of the source of food and do not have to worry about the methods used in farming, growing, and harvesting.
For those who are used to the out-of-season processed foods, getting accustomed to seasonal foods may prove challenging initially. The best strategy is to start slow, and choose common produce such as fruits and vegetables and incorporate them into your diet. If you do the same over and over, it becomes more comfortable and more fulfilling. It is a decision that one has to make to exercise sustainable consumption and positively impact the environment and community. In anticipation of the various seasons of the year, research and know specific foods that come with each season and enjoy the benefits.
Know when those sweet mangoes, or the succulent apples, and the tasty corn will be in season and prepare early enough to take advantage. You can even go a step further and keep a seasonal produce calendar to help you keep track of the foods in season. Be keen on the weather fluctuations as such always indicate a change in seasons.
Seasonal produce is almost always available to everyone at all times. Each season comes with a range of fresh produce that individuals can use to experiment on new recipes or improve the existing ones. It only takes a single decision to embrace the practice and enjoy the nutritional benefits, cost-saving, environmental protection, better taste, and community benefits.