What is seasonal eating? In a nutshell, it means eating the foods that are in season in the area where you live, and goes hand in hand with eating local. I think most people think of seasonal fruits and vegetables, but this idea also pertains to meat. Michael Pollan states in his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, that the natural season for red meat is fall and winter and for chicken is spring and summer. Wild fish and seafood also have seasons, crab comes to mind, for example. Why is seasonal eating something we should even think about? Here are a few things to consider:
1. More delicious and nutritious food ~ freshly picked produce that is in season tastes better. Think of the flavor (and texture) of tomatoes in the summer vs tomatoes in the winter. Seasonal and local produce is actually more nutritious, as well, due to having higher nutrient content. As fruit and vegetables sit, even in the fridge, nutrients like vitamin C, some of the B vitamins and some of the polyphenolic compounds can degrade. Produce grown out of season and transported to the grocery store can be picked before being ripe, then can take a few days for transport, can sit at the grocery store for a few more days and then be stored in your fridge for a few days, so by the time you eat it, it could be 1 - 2 weeks (or even longer for some items) from the time it was picked.
2. Better for the environment ~ by eating what is in season, and available locally, our food doesn't have to be shipped across the country or from other parts of the world to get to you, and this means less fuel is used leading to less pollution. Also plants that are grown in the seasons and environments when they are meant to grow, require less human intervention. On the flip side, when they are grown outside of their natural season, more intervention, in the form of pesticides and chemicals are required to allow the produce to get to your dinner table.
3. Helps promote local farms ~ when buying seasonal and local produce, especially when shopping at local farmers markets or CSAs, you are supporting local farmers and putting money back into your local economy.
4. Community ~ getting to know where your food comes from and who is growing it, can help you feel more connected to your food, to the people behind the food and to the whole process. Again, think: farmers markets.
5. More economical ~ supply and demand! When there is an abundance of a food, in theory it should be more reasonably priced.
6. It is fun ~ challenging yourself to rotate foods based on the season, can lead to experimentation with recipes as you try to get creative with the abundance of the season.
7. A way to be a part of the local and organic food movement ~ "It is a movement away from the industrial food chain and toward a more local, organic food system." Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma.
A great resource for seasonal produce is on the Sustainable Table's website. They have a Seasonal Food Guide where you can sort by location and month and a list of what is in season will come up. Super cool. You can find it by clicking here. A couple of other nice sources for finding what is in season in your area can be found in the magazines published by Edible Community Publications; and on the Foodgeeks website by clicking here.
Edible Marin and Wine Country
Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables
Pollan, Michael (2009). The Omnivore's Dilemma: Young Reader's Edition. Penguin Publishing: New York, NY