One of the main reasons behind my switch to a plant-based diet was finding out about the huge environmental footprint of animal agriculture. I spent about a week binge-watching documentaries and I just couldn’t believe that the impact of our eating habits on the planet are so significant. You probably know all of this if you’ve already adopted a plant-based diet, however I feel like there are still so many food choices we can make everyday to become more environmentally conscious eaters, beyond cutting or decreasing our consumption of animal products. This post is all about eating seasonally: what that means, why it’s so important, and how it can be made easy. Just a little side note: nobody is perfect, I still find myself buying foreign produce every now and again, and it’s not always possible to eat seasonally for everyone at all times- I’m just writing this to help whoever is reading make the decision, whenever possible and available, to help our beautiful planet and bodies. Happy reading!
What does it mean to eat seasonally?
Eating seasonally and locally means you are eating what naturally grows in your area, thereby avoiding the transportation of out of season produce. Our planet is huge, with different countries and continents having seasons which vary greatly from one to the other. As the seasons change, so does the produce that is available in a certain region. In this day and age however, it is possible to have mangos from india and pineapples from the dominican republic every day, along with tomatoes and other summer fruits and vegetables (which might usually be available locally, just during the right season). Just because these are available to us however, does not mean that we should be including them in our day-to-day food shops.
Why is it important to eat seasonally and locally?
1. It supports your body’s needs
Our bodies are such intelligent vessels- they seemlessly adapt to seasonal changes and, on most occasions, strive on what is around. During the winter, Vitamin C is particularly important to help prevent and combat colds and flu’s and it’s throughout this season that all things citrus, along with orange vegetables, are at their prime. Summer produce such as stone fruits, on the other hand, are high in carotenoids that help protect our bodies from sun damage. By trusting what is around us, we can easily fuel our bodies with what it needs. Eating seasonally and locally is also the easiest way to ensure you’re not ingesting pesticides and herbicides, with many countries having relaxed laws about the chemicals that are sprayed on fruits and vegetables and not regulating soil contamination. The more conscious you are of where your food comes from, the more aware you can be of what exactly you’re putting into your body.
2. It’s better for the environment
The lower the demand for out of season, the less need for transportation, refrigeration, hot houses and irradiation of produce and crops. The impact of supporting local farming and produce on CO2 emissions is huge and it’s so easy to take the step to reduce such an unnecessarily large carbon footprint. As amazing as it is to decrease the environmental footprint of our diets by cutting out and decreasing the consumption of meat and dairy, it’s almost as if we’re taking a couple of steps back if we’re stocking our fridges and pantries with produce that has travelled hundreds of thousands of miles. Ditch the tomatoes and fresh berries during the winter as much as possible, and remember to check labels of what you’re buying!
3. It’s a win win
In-season produce is both tastier and cheaper. When fruits and vegetables that have naturally ripened are picked they will taste a hundred times better and fresher than when transported from abroad. This is because transported produce is refrigerated for long-periods of time, making it lose a lot of its flavour and nutrition count. This is then topped with produce being heated in hot houses and artificially ripened upon its arrival. Without the whole transportation/travel phase, the price of produce automatically decreases, as travelling expenses, storage and equipment are non-existent. The cost of local produce also has a chance of decreasing if farmers harvest large quantities of in-season produce. In other words, supporting your local suppliers will help you too!
Making seasonal eating as easy as possible: tips and tricks
1.Ditch the supermarkets every now and then
Instead of relying on supermarkets for every food shop, take a trip to your local farmers market. They’re usually on every weekend and they are filled with seasonal and local produce. I always find so much inspiration from colourful and busy farmers markets, and you’ll be surprised as to how much more connected you can feel to food and cooking at market as opposed to in the fluorescent and carefully constructed isles of a supermarket. It might require a little more effort depending on where you live but it really makes it easier to buy what’s in season with a smile, so try it out on a sunny Saturday.
2. Check out the frozen isle
Just because you can’t get local produce such as berries during the winter, doesn’t mean you need to forego it them together. Check out the frozen isles of your supermarket, as all the beautiful summer berries are picked at their ripest and frozen so you can keep using them in your smoothies, desserts, and porridge.
3. Preserve and freeze
This is one of my favourites. Something really cool thing you can do is preserve and freeze fruit yourself. Spend a summer afternoon freezing peaches and berries and I promise future you will be very appreciative. You can also make jams, compotes, and salsas and store them in the freezer for months to brighten up a cold winter day and dish.
4. Surround yourself with inspiration
It’s much easier to cook seasonally and be inspired by seasonal produce if the recipes, blogs and cookbooks you follow make use of what the season has to offer. My favourites for beautiful seasonal food inspiration are Sarah from My New Roots, Luise and David from Green Kitchen Stories, Heidi Swanson, and Laura from The First Mess. Check these out and I’m sure you’ll be inspired as well.
That’s all for now- happy cooking and eating!