The arrival of the beautiful autumn weather is a great reminder of the importance of eating within the seasons for optimum health and wellness.
Seasonal foods offer a natural diversity that we should take advantage of when eating primal for both our health and the health of our planet. I don’t think there is anything better than picking a fresh tomato off the vine and eating it there and then. When you first take a bite into the tomato, wow the flavour is intense. What about picking an apple off the tree, and you hear the crunch with your first bite. Oh my, I wish I saved my apples and not passed them onto our pigs (it will be returned to us with sweet pork crackling)
Next time you’re at the supermarket, take notice off what’s available in their fresh produce section. You will find a large assortment of fruit and vegetables available all year round which are not in season. To the supermarkets they offer convenience by providing the same foods, all year round. It allows you to purchase whatever you want whenever you want, however does it provide you with all the vitamins and nutrients you need?
To keep the fruit and vegetables looking saleable in grocery stores many of these out of season non-organic foods depend on waxes, chemicals and preservatives to make them look fresh and tastier than they’re . Unfortunately these foods are only produced for long shelf life, rather than seasonality and flavour.
Before I moved to Bruny Island whereby I am now fortunate enough to grow all our food seasonally, I was shopping at our local farmers market each Sunday. There are many benefits when you head to the farmers market;
1: Talking directly with the farmer who grows your food
2: The connection you gain with the food which goes on your plate
3: The enjoyment of eating food which has been harvested days before
Let’s look at the benefits seasonal eating has on our health and the environment.
1. Health Benefits
Eating seasonal foods will help support your body by providing you with diversity. You can enjoy a large range of different foods, which can help achieve optimal health. When choosing to eat seasonal, you’re eating foods that are picked at the peak of their freshness and thus offer higher nutritional content than that of out of season, un ripen fruits and vegetables.
The diverse range of fresh fruit and vegetables will benefit your body by providing you with a wide range of important vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Everything you need to obtain vibrant health.
You’re also supporting your own body’s natural detox abilities. For example; winter foods offers more soups, curries and slow cooked meals, whereby you may be using bone broth as your base. Bone broths help support your immune system by offering a large range of important minerals such as magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
Come spring time and this is the time to taste leafy greens and vegetables such as spring onions, spring garlic and dandelion greens which are all fantastic to help detoxify your liver and cleanse your blood.
When foods are eaten out of season, we miss out on eating food at its prime – when it tastes best and has a higher nutritional value. When food is not in season locally, it’s either grown in a hothouse or shipped in from other parts of the world, and both affect the taste. Transported food needs to be harvested early and refrigerated so they don’t rot during the transportation. This affects the ripening stage, because they are taken out of their natural environment too soon and the produce does not develop full flavour.
“Foods that are chilled and shipped lose flavour at every step of the way – chilling cuts their flavour, transport cuts their flavour, being held in warehouses cuts their flavour. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about eating five servings a day of flavourless fruits and vegetables and it’s even harder to get your children to be enthusiastic about it”. Susan Herrmann Loomis, owner of On Rue Tatin Cooking School
“If you harvest something early so that it can endure a long distance shipping experience, it’s not going to have the full complement of nutrients it might have had. In addition, transporting produce sometimes requires irradiation (zapping the produce with a burst of radiation to kill germs) and preservatives (such as wax) to protect the produce, which is subsequently refrigerated during the trip” (Brian Halweil, author of “Eat Here: Home grown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket)
Eating seasonally you can experience eating whole foods that have not been processed or refined. Fresh fruit, vegetables, unprocessed meat, allows your diet to be free of added sugars, salts, flavouring agents, preservatives and allows you to have a varied diet. It helps to break out of the rut of buying the same foods all year round. You’re able to try different vegetables, and can become excited every time a new food comes into season.
2. Sustainable Benefits
In Australia the two largest retailers, Coles and Woolworths, have almost 80% of the market share. Supermarkets have huge buying power and can often source and sell produce at a cheaper rate than independent, family run grocery stores. This is unfortunate because it pressures our farmers into providing cheaper produce, thus farmers sometimes have no choice but to turn to factory farming and other intensive farming practices that may cause environmental degradation. Supporting organic farming, you are supporting the traditional and natural way of farming. I also like the idea of ‘agro-ecologiacal farming’ this is a way of growing food that builds and strengthens, rather than destroying our ecosystems.
Another benefit of organic farming is, it helps to grow different varieties of plants that attract beneficial insects to help rid pest. This is instead of spraying chemicals that you might be later ingesting. Organic farmers use methods such as companion planting, crop rotation, the use of cover crops, natural pest control, hand weeding and animal grazing to help control invasive species
Another sustainable technique organic farmers integrate is planting legumes. Planting legumes naturally helps to fix nitrogen in the soil, instead of applying fossil-fuel-based fertilisers to the soil, which can destroy the soils capacity to regenerate.
Supporting local, independent organic farmers you can help them maintain their high standard of farming practices such as: rotating crops to increase soil fertility (remember every nutrient you want to obtain from the fruit and vegetables you eat, starts within the soil) using integrated pest management to control pests and using beneficial insects instead of toxic pesticides, which are all passed on to us the consumer by providing us and our families with healthier foods.
Since growing my own food, eating seasonally and implementing permaculture techniques I have noticed the difference in the foods I am eating. One that stands out is the taste and flavour. I also having a greater understanding of how I am contributing to the health of our planet. The non use of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides are not only protecting my own health, it is protecting the health of our planet, the health of the farm workers and providing us with far superior products that offers better taste, quality and nutritional benefits over conventionally, out of season foods.
3. Environmental Benefits
It is vary rare I ever need to go to the supermarket, but this one occasion I was having a dinner party and needed lemons (pre island life). I walked into the supermarket, picked up the lemon, looked at its sticker only to find it had come all the way from USA (I wish I had a neighbour I could forage off). Eating with the seasons and purchasing local foods helps to protect our planet because it reduces the number of food miles your food has to travel before it reaches your plate. You are helping to cut back on the amount of fuel used that reduces pollution.
By making a conscious choice to purchase organic, seasonal, and local foods we help protect our water, air, and land and helps us to connect back to where our food comes from.
4. Economic Benefits
Every Sunday when I walked out of the farmers market, not only did I walk out with at least three to four bags full of the freshest, tastiest produce, I actually had change left over in my pocket. I could buy a huge amount of seasonal produce, which included meat for under $50, that shop would last a week and feed two people. Compare that with supermarket shopping, one to two bags, not even filled to the brim with no money left. Buying seasonal, local organic grown foods you help provide financial support to the farmers in your area, which has a flow on effect of growing our local economy. You will also find seasonal foods are priced much more economically than out of season foods which will save you money on your grocery bills.
How can you and your family eat seasonally?
We may not be able to eat seasonally and local 100% of the time but we can aim to do our best. The first thing you can do is start with your own home. If you have a front or back yard with lawn you can grow and pick your own food. Actually if you have concrete you can grow food with a no dig garden (more on that in another post).
You can have total control on what went into growing your own food and you can enjoy them at their peak the day of harvest. Now I am becoming excited for you! Growing your own food allows you to reduce your food miles to ‘food hop, skip and jump’ (Well I feel like doing that, because I am always excited to be out in my food garden and see what I can enjoy). It reduces your contribution to climate change, enables you to eat seasonally, reduces the money you need to spend on food and gives you a greater connection with how food is grown. WIN!!
I am fortunate enough to have eight chooks, so if you can do this, I highly recommend bringing chooks into your home. They will (hopefully) provide you with daily free range eggs and help reduce your waste by eating your food scraps.
Don’t like gardening?:
Visit your local farmers markets. Here is a great website to check out which list all the farmers markets around Australia. Visiting your local farmers market will motivate you to buy seasonal natural whole foods, free from packaging, healthier for you and has a much lower environmental impact.
You could also join a community supported agriculture farm (CSA), become involved in a school garden, or start your own community garden. I am now a supporter for Tasmania and The Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network which helps connect community gardeners around Australia. You can find out more here
What are you waiting for? Determine what’s in season right now and get your hands dirty. You’ll be rewarded with high quality produce, packed with superior nutrition, at a lower cost and a great sense of self – satisfaction.
I’m off now to go and cook up a chicken and pumpkin curry with my Queensland blue pumpkins. I’ll Leave you with a look at what’s in season for autumn.
I would love to hear what foods you have growing in your back yard and your favourite time of year for fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
Happy hunting, foraging, harvesting and gardening.