As the weather warms up, you may begin to anticipate the multitude of ripe berries and delicious vegetables that come along with summer.
Eating local and in-season produce from your local farmers market has multiple benefits for the consumer, the environment, and the community.
Here are five reasons why you should eat in-season produce every season:
Produce that is purchased and consumed in a season has a much higher nutritional value when compared to produce that has been stored for an extended period. The antioxidant and phytonutrient levels of fruits and vegetables begin to decline rapidly, the longer they are stored. Plus, out of season produce has most likely been irradiated or preserved in wax to extend its shelf life.
The simple fact is that the closer to it’s harvesting that you eat the food, the higher the nutritional value you will receive. The shorter the time from farm to table, the better!
Not only is in-season produce more nutritious, but it is also more delicious! When fruits and vegetables that have been fully ripened naturally are harvested, they contain much more flavor.
When we consume produce that is not in season, it has most likely been harvested early, then transported and refrigerated. This chilling reduces the flavor and even alters the texture of the fruit or vegetable. You may have experienced this when eating a grainy apple or tasteless tomato that was not in season.
Seasonal produce benefits both the consumer and the producer. When there is an abundance of a particular food, its price goes down. This exemplifies the most fundamental rule in economics; the rule of supply and demand.
Further, supporting your local food system ensures that local growers will remain close to home. Farms that sell to regional markets can more easily earn a positive net farm income as well.
Seasonal food that is produced locally has a reduced environmental impact due to a reduction in ‘food mileage.’ All this means is that it costs less (for both the environment and producer) to transport food a shorter distance.
Another benefit for the environment is the fact that local produce requires less storage and less irradiation. Seasonal produce grows well without the need for pesticides or other toxic compounds that will contaminate the soil, water, and ultimately, our health.
Interestingly, the produce that is in season-best supports your body’s natural nutrition needs at that time. For example, citrus fruits that ripen in the winter are packed with vitamin C, helping to prevent the common cold or flu. In the summertime, ripened stone fruits are full of carotenoids that help protect us from sun damage.
We begin to become much more connected to our body’s natural rhythms when we eat according to the seasons. The significant part about the cycling of in-season produce is that it is designed perfectly to meet our health needs.
In the end, eating local and in-season produce is hard to sustain year-round. Just focus on eating in-season produce that supports local farmers whenever you can! By eating this way, we can better nourish our bodies, the earth, and our communities.