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WHY IS SEASONAL EATING SO IMPORTANT?



We are constantly encouraged to consume produce grown near us and foods that are in season. But why is this advice so important? Eating seasonally has many advantages, most notably reduced cost and improved flavour of food. Plus, this habit helps reduce our environmental impact and may reduce the impact of climate change, pollution and sustainability to conserve and preserve our natural resources. Every food has its own life cycle. When a plant is ripe and ready for consumption, it is harvested. At this stage, the plants are at their most flavourful and nutritious. It's almost as if we are reverting to how our ancestors lived – relying on the land to grow or find what they needed, harvesting the plants while they were at their peak—and subsequently cooking or preserving their bounty. Eating seasonally has many advantages, most notably reduced cost and improved flavour of food. Plus, this habit helps reduce our impact on the environment. Much of the fruit and veg we buy that is out of season has a serious environmental cost. Greenhouses are used or shipped from other regions, meaning they may be picked before they're ripe and refrigerated during transit. This results in them not attaining the flavour and nutrient levels they would if allowed to mature normally. Harvesting before they reach their full potential diminishes the nutrient makeup as well. The longer produce is on its journey from farm to plate, the less nutrient-dense it becomes. One study found that dark leafy vegetables lost nearly half of their vitamin C content after transport and three days of shelf time at the grocery store. (REF *1) The same study also showed drops in levels of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, chlorophyll, and ascorbic acid. An older 2008 study revealed that broccoli in autumn had almost twice the amount of vitamin C when compared to broccoli in spring. (REF *2) Further research has found that many fruits and vegetables lose phenolics, vitamin C, and anthocyanins — all crucial antioxidants that help fight oxidative stress and free radical damage within the body — after fifteen days of cold storage. (REF *3) Cost is another critical factor. Produce grown locally and in season often costs less since there is an abundance of it available. Opting for seasonal food items can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Furthermore, the costs associated with transporting this type of food are reduced. On the other hand, foods that travel long distances are sometimes exposed to radiation or covered in preservatives such as wax, which can impact their taste and nutrition. Purchasing locally grown produce in-season means you're potentially lowering greenhouse gas emissions from transporting and storing the produce at low temperatures. What's good to eat in September?

There are so many delicious foods which are good to eat in September – we're looking at a range of fruits, vegetables and seafood. In the UK, apples, pears, blackberries and other warm-weather fruits have been available from British soil during the summer. As the temperature drops, we still have pumpkins, squash, kale, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, carrots, turnips, cabbages and mushrooms in season - and a variety of game birds full of lean proteins. Additionally, truffles are also in season.

As more people become aware of the importance of eating seasonally, many need to get used to the idea of having fresh produce grown locally and in season. Supermarkets carry foods from all over the world, and this has removed us from knowing what's in season or where it comes from. Many children and families have no idea when certain fruits and vegetables are available. So, how do we learn to understand what is in season and the best things to eat?

Top tips for those just learning how to eat seasonally

  • There are lots of online resources that advise you which foods are in season, such as the BBC Food: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/seasons/september

  • Getting out to local street and farmer's markets will make it very clear what vegetables, fruit and produce are in season, particularly when you look at the prices.

  • Even in the supermarkets, food in season is much cheaper, and there are more varieties of food.

  • Smell the produce and see if you can smell anything. Crops that have been refrigerated and have not fully ripened will not smell.

  • Learning how to preserve your food by freezing, bottling, and dehydrating will mean you can eat these foods all year round.

  • Cook simply and make the most of the flavour of the simple produce.

References

*1 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/fsn3.685

*2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17852499/

*3. https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/C264A576782D7B79B95A47D50515B02A/S0029665110002004a.pdf/does_eating_local_food_reduce_the_environmental_impact_of_food_production_and_enhance_consumer_health.pdf

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