Seasonal eating is something I always try to do. I have a lovely romantic vision of being in tune with the turning of the earth and seasons. That doesn't always work out and with the ease of getting frozen food and pretty much anything at any time of the year these days, that romantic vision is often diluted.
When I was a kid, we only got kiwi fruit and mandarin's at Christmas time. Asparagus was a spring vegetable only and I don't think I even ever saw a Mango until the 1990s. But in our modern world of convenience, they are all available, every day of the year.
But is eating these things really food for you all the time?
October Fruit & Vegetables
As the last warmth of summer seems to have faded and the leaves on the trees here are turning lovely gold and yellow colours, so too is the selection in my local supermarket beginning to change.
There are a few nectarines, plums and grapes left on the shelves, but frankly they're not the best right now. The tomatoes I've recently had have been flavourless and full of water. And I had a melon the other day that I had to throw out because it was just terrible. (by throw out, I mean feed to the worms in my compost heap) However, apples and pears are at their best and special fruits like figs and cranberries are making their way in.
Apples, if stored correctly will keep for months and months. So I'm reluctant to buy apples in June or July as the likelihood they've been sat in a cold store for almost a year is pretty high, and that isn't all too appetizing to me.
These more local fruits say to me that there's a certain slowing down occurring. The punchy, sweet and high energy of peaches, nectarines and mangoes feels like too much for this cooler weather. Where as a nice sweet, crisp, but slightly tart apple, seems to fit better. They've soaked up the summer sun and are giving us a bit of it back as summer turns to autumn.
In the vegetable department, there is lots of broccoli and beets (beetroot) up for grabs. And with the approach of Halloween, pumpkins are everywhere. Leeks, mushrooms, kale and main crop potatoes are in abundance. Turnips are also coming into season, although you'd have to hold a gun to my head to eat one as memories of being forced to eat it at primary school as a little kid are still very real in my head. brrr.
All these vegetables say stews, casseroles and crock pot cooking to me. Slow, a little bit heavy. Slower energy releasing, starchy vegetables.
And when you think about it, with less day light, there is much less time to be out and about in the sun shine. So our lives slow down, our digestion slows down, our food slows down.
I've mentioned in a post before that when I lived in Australia, after a while of having only sunny warm days, I missed the seasons. Now looking back, I personally found it a drain to be in the sunshine day after day. For many that's a dream come true. But for me, Autumn means pumpkin soup, slow cooked stews, big cozy jumpers and hot chocolate.
So, what are the benefits of eating seasonally?
Nutrition - Firstly, there is the nutritional value. It's not difficult to understand that an apple picked last week, is going to be fresher and more nutritious than one that's been in storage for almost a year. There is still much diversity in seasonal foods and because foods are picked at peak freshness, their nutritional content is higher. Of course flash frozen foods retain a lot of the nutritional value but fresh always tastes best.
Immune System - Our immune system needs extra support at the changing of the seasons. We need lots of vitamin C going into the colder months, which elderberries and rose-hips are full off. Here in northern Europe you only need to look out the window and see bushes laden with rose-hips. Kale is packed full of vitamin C and it will be lining the supermarket shelves with abundance very soon. In the summer, we eat lots of summer fruits which contain lots of antioxidants. Antioxidants can be a natural anti-histamine which can be very helpful against the dreaded hay fever.
Taste - Seasonal food really does taste better. When food is allowed to ripen naturally, and picked at peak time the flavour stays as fresh as the produce. Just think of a perfect, ripe, juicy strawberry.
Environment - Eating seasonally helps to reduce the number of miles your food has to travel. Less miles means less pollution. Eating seasonally also means eating locally, so you're supporting local farmers and growers.
Feeling - There is something to be said about turning to the natural cycle of produce. Human beings are as cyclical as nature. We are nature. And tuning to nature really does feel good.
Pesticides - Food grown locally and in season needs less pesticides to be bug free. Things like companion planting work wonders at keeping the right bugs around and the wrong ones way.
So, eat locally, eat seasonally and eat fresh. It may seem like a bit of a task to cook and eat fresh every day, but Sunday meal planning (search Instagram, it's every where) goes a long way.