With the improvement in technology and consumer demands, consumers can now buy things like strawberries and apples in supermarkets all year round instead of when they’re growing naturally in their season. This means these out-of-season fruits and veggies are either being grown in greenhouses or flown in from warmer countries where they are picked before they are ripe and therefore unable to fully develop their flavours.
This means you actually get less—less flavour and less nutrition. Compare the sweetness and flavour of a tomato in February to one in August, and you’ll know what allowing food to fully ripen means to your taste buds! That’s why we’re extending a challenge to our readers and customers to eat their vegetables and fruits in season. Not only does it carry benefits to the planet, but also to your health and your wallet.
Read on to learn more about seasonal eating and stick it out until the end to get an autumn seasonal eating list to help you get started!
1. Seasonal Eating = Less Expensive
Food is always going to be easier to grow when it’s in season, making it more abundant, less time-intensive for the grower or farmer, and often more affordable for the consumers.
Buying out of season produce is much more expensive because of the time, the shipping distance, the fuel costs, and the amount of people involved with getting that produce from one place to next, often involving produce sitting in a shipping container going across the ocean.
It doesn’t even need to be shipped a great distance to cause a price increase. Simply growing fruit and veggies out-of-season in a false season environment, such as a greenhouse, still adds up to more energy consumed and higher costs, which are more often than not passed along to the consumer – that would be you!
To avoid paying such a hefty price for your produce, think “Less energy, less transit time, cheaper total cost.”
If your produce is in short supply or has travelled a long way you’re going to pay more, so try to buy locally and seasonally.
2. Seasonal = More Nutritious
Food that is in season is more often than not, fresher, tastier and more nutritious. This makes it much better for you than food grown out of season, or food that has been lugged about the planet for days.
When produce is grown in its proper season, under its natural growing conditions, these seasonal foods have time to grow and develop all of their nutrients and flavours. Seasonal fruits and vegetables don’t have to endure as much travel, so they don’t lose those vital nutrients.
As soon as a fruit or vegetable has been picked or harvested, the nutritional values begin to break down.
Since out-of-season produce may be shipped from thousands of miles away, it can spend days in transit, losing valuable nutrients along the way.
Eating with the seasons also means you can look forward to having things at their best. This gives you a bit of variety because you won’t be eating the same ingredients all year round, and you’ll be consuming a variety of different beneficial supporting nutrients.
We’re constantly reminded about our 5 a day, so we religiously pile our plate with green beans, peas, carrots, you name it, because we know they’re so nutritious. So why would we then purposefully chose to buy produce that has lost so much of its nutritional properties’?
3. Seasonal = Are more flavoursome
It goes without saying, fresh produce that has been picked in-season is going to taste significantly more flavoursome in comparison to an out-of-season product. Foods that have been shipped from around the world, often picked prematurely before they’ve been given the chance to fully and naturally ripen will taste noticeably different.
Let us go back to the tomato example, comparing the sweetness of a tomato in February to one in August.
Often fruits and vegetables are picked prematurely in order to ensure the produce survives the duration of a long trip or has time to mature during travel. Think about the times you have seen only green bananas on a supermarket shelf without a glimpse of yellow. Or mangos that have no delicious sweet scent coming from them and are as hard as a rock!
I’m not saying never eat them because they don’t grow here in Ireland, but I’d say put more of a focus on what’s in season where you are, and don’t make these foods the staple of your diet, month in month out.
For more ideas about what’s in season and when, plus how to get the most out of the delicious, seasonal produce available, see this article which gives a healthy recipe for one seasonal food per month!
One other thing to think about are the chemicals used in growing and transporting out-of-season foods. Not only for growth rates and pest prevention but for appearance too.
Foods that have been picked too early and have travelled long distances won’t look or smell nearly as good as the seasonal ones that were allowed to grow to their peak both flavour wise and nutritionally.
To make them look more appealing, produce is often given chemical ripening agents, artificial fertilisers, chemical pesticides and fungicides, wax coatings, and other preservatives that can all affect the flavour of the produce, not to mention the damage they can cause to the environment and your own health.
4. Seasonal = Variety = Good
Eating seasonally means that every few month or two, we’re trying something new, and that’s a good thing for our taste buds and our health. Different vegetables and fruits contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals… but we don’t get the good stuff that comes from asparagus or nectarines if all we eat are peppers, onions and apples.
Following the seasons allows us to consume different foods containing different nutrients.
Check out this Eat Seasonally Calender which helps you discover what’s in season throughout the year!
5. Seasonal = More Environmentally Friendly
There’s nothing like juicy fresh fruit and wholesome vegetables right at their seasonal best. There’s something so good about eating food when it’s just been picked. It tastes better, it’s better value and it’s a better deal for the planet.
Shipping fruits and vegetables over long distances can have a large impact on our planet, from increased greenhouse gas emissions, atmosphere pollution, and energy usage.
Seasonal and local foods more often than not have to travel much shorter distances compared to non-seasonal fruits and vegetables, thereby requiring less carbon-footprint-increasing transport such as aeroplanes.
It does seem a bit silly to buy apples shipped all the way from New Zealand, when for a lot of the year you can munch on native versions of your own.
But How Do I do it? How do I know what’s in season?
Do your research!
Find out what’s in season right now or chose to look month by month at Eat the Seasons.
If you’re shopping at local farmers market you can ask the seller what they have that’s in season now. A lot of the time they will be happy to tell you as they probably have an abundance of it!!
You can also ask them exactly where they get their produce from.
Think, “British asparagus starts popping up in fields in the spring, tomatoes and red berries ripen in late summer, sweetcorn and pumpkins in the autumn, and cabbages and root vegetables reach their best in the winter months” – Jamie Oliver
And remember, just be mindful of your choices. If you want to include more leafy greens in your diet and kale is out of season but your supermarket shelves are just bursting with it, don’t feel you have to turn them down because you’re “eating seasonally.”
This also goes for foods such as bananas, pomegranates and passion fruit. No they are not what you’d call native fruits to Ireland by far, but they are not to be disowned should you enjoy them! Just try to be mindful of your choices and opt for the majority of your shopping basket to be seasonal and local.
What’s in season in the coming months?
artichoke, beetroot, broccoli, butternut squash, celeriac, celery, chicory, chillies, fennel, garlic, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce & salad leaves, marrow, parsnips, potatoes (maincrop), pumpkin,radishes, rocket, runner beans, salsify, shallots, swede, sweetcorn, tomatoes, truffles, turnips, watercress, wild mushrooms
Apples, bilberries, blackberries, elderberries, figs, grapes, medlar,pears, quince
artichoke, beetroot, butternut squash, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes (maincrop), pumpkin, salsify, shallots, swede, truffles, turnips, watercress, wild mushrooms
apples, clementines, cranberries, passion fruit, pears, pomegranate, quince, satsumas
beetroot, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes (maincrop), salsify, shallots, swede, truffles, turnips, wild mushrooms, apples, clementines, cranberries, passion fruit, pears, pineapple
I grabbed this list from Eat the Seasons – pop over there for more information.
So there you have it – 5 reasons to eat in season!
If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me via our Facebook!