Why and How to Eat with the Seasons
“Eating with the Seasons” may sound like some new Millennial food trend that is neither attainable or reasonable, but it is very far from that. Recently, many dieticians have begun to recommend this seasonal eating as an accessible way to improve your diet. While seasonal eating may sound quite complex, this article will outline the four reasons why it is so great, and simplify how you can follow this practice in your own life.
- It is Cheap
While money may not be a concern to some, most of us have to remain pretty conscious of what is in our wallets and how to budget our funds, especially during the transitions from high school to college and college to the real world. One of the hardest areas to budget is food because frankly we all need food and we all want food. When it comes to eating healthy it gets even more difficult to budget, because often times trending health foods or fresh organic produce can send your grocery bill skyrocketing. Luckily, if you purchase foods that you know are in season, they will often be far cheaper or even on sale. This is because during certain seasonal times of harvest produce farmers often have an excess amount, and when supply is higher than demand the prices drop! Also, in-season produce does not have to be shipped from around the globe, so you are not paying for those expensive shipping costs. As proof of this, GAIAM reported that purchasing basil when it is out of season can often leave you with a wilty bunch for $3, while buying basil in season can cost about $1 for a large, luscious bunch.
- It is Easy and Fast
Eating seasonally is the definition of accessible. When you pass by farmers markets on your way home, you can easily stop by any produce stall to see their wide array of seasonal, local, and inexpensive produce. Here is a huge list of all the farmers markets in the many varying neighborhoods of Chicago. If you don’t live in Chicago, there are plenty of farmer’s markets that you can easily find in most cities and towns across the United States. Due to the increase in popularity of seasonal eating, the number of farmer’s markets has also increased dramatically, from a mere 1,755 in 1994, to a whopping 8,268 in 2014. Alternatively, if you are shopping at the grocery store, in-season produce will often be displayed directly at the front of the store surrounded by sale signs.
Sadly, many Americans are still living in food deserts, or areas without access to a variety of grocery options, healthy foods, and fresh produce. If this is your situation and you want to try seasonal eating, I recommend trying to grow a few seasonal fruits, veggies, and herbs in a windowsill planter or simply on your kitchen table. In recent years, there have been a myriad of community garden projects initiated in food desert neighborhoods across America. For example, the PCC Community Wellness Center in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood has opened a community farm, and the Breakthrough Fresh Market in East Garfield Park offers fresh, seasonal foods to local residents. It is important to work towards healthy food equality, ensuring that eating seasonally is truly easy and fast for all people, regardless of race, income, community, or any other factors.
- It Improves Your Health
Eating more produce in general is extremely beneficial for your health, as veggies and fruits are often high in vital nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, and many different vitamins. Eating seasonally makes it easier for you to quickly and cheaply buy produce, already ensuring more nutritious meals. Plus, seasonal produce does not have to travel very far or be preserved for very long, so the natural nutrients found within these fruits and vegetables are maintained at a higher level. The Cleveland Clinic actually found that spinach can provide you with three times the amount of Vitamin C when eaten during its peak season. Lucky for you, this season is between September and November, so go grab some spinach and enjoy this simple sauteed spinach or this delicious spanakopita pie. By eating seasonally you are getting to harness all the “health-boosting” powers out of your cheap and easy-to-find produce!
- It Benefits the Planet
By shipping produce across many states and countries, companies have to use trucks, trains, and airplanes to get their products into stores worldwide. Sadly, this shipping also releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the air and produces a lot of waste. The senior associate director of the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems, Rich Pirog, actually found that conventional food distribution was responsible for 5-17 times more CO2 production than local and regionally grown food. If the demand is decreased for out-of-season produce, then you help decrease the negative effects of this long-distance shipping. Also, because seasonal produce is more fresh, you are less likely to throw it out, reducing our serious issue of food waste in America.
- It is Delicious
I may not have any statistics to back this up, but I have a whole lot of anecdotal evidence. A fresh heirloom tomato purchased at your local farmer’s market in the middle of July provides you with a sweet and umami explosion of juice and flavor. Now picture a bag of tomatoes at your local Aldi purchased in the middle of December that yields a drier, sour bite and a wrinkly, pale tomato skin. While some produce tastes okay year-round, most fresh veggies and fruits, especially items like tomatoes, peas, apples, and oranges, taste and look so much better when purchased in season. By cooking with the produce that is in-season you can guarantee your meals will be even tastier than usual. Also, if you are not an expert with seasoning, you can always rely upon the naturally delicious flavor of these in-season foods.
Now that you are so excited to start eating and cooking seasonally, you’ll be happy to hear that millions of Americans are right alongside you. Statista, a market research firm, found that between 2013 and 2014, the percent of Americans who consumed locally grown food twice weekly grew from 14% to over 20%. I hope to see you become a part of this movement. Finally, to make your exploration of seasonal eating as stress-free as possible, try this chart (you can print it out and stick it on your fridge) to remember what is in season for every month!