Have you ever tasted the sweet hood strawberries this time of year or bitten into a juicy peach fresh from the farm at the peak of summer and thought to yourself, “this is the best thing I’ve ever tasted”? The opposite can be said for looking back at some of the worst produce you’ve ever tasted. Can you recall a time during the winter when you walked the aisles of the produce department at your local grocery store and saw sad beige-ish red tomatoes that tasted even more bland than they looked? Or when you bit into a mealy apple and felt like it just wasn’t right? Or tried to find corn on the cob in January and were disappointed that it wasn’t nearly as juicy and sweet as when you have it in the summer? That is all due to seasonality! Food just tastes better when it’s eaten in it’s correct reason and, similarly, it will be less flavorful and less nutritious when it’s out of season due to storage, shipping, growing conditions, or premature harvesting.
What’s All the Fuss About Seasonal Eating?
Seasonal eating allows you to naturally boost the health benefits of your diet by eating produce when the concentration of vitamins and minerals is at its peak. It’s what we used to do without thinking about it. Yes, as far back as our humble beginnings as cavemen, but also as recently as a few decades ago.
When our options consisted entirely of locally produced products, eating seasonally was really the only choice. But that’s not the case anymore thanks to advances in transportation and food storage. As society is becoming more aware of our consumer impacts on climate change and the health of our ecosystems, I am ever more persuaded that shopping locally and eating seasonally are part of the solution. Eating seasonally is more sustainable than eating out of season. This simply means that when you buy a pint of cherry tomatoes in the summertime you are contributing to less energy usage. If you buy local foods, they are grown or produced as close to Portland as possible. Buying local supports more sustainable food systems in many ways but especially related to transportation. Industrial food production heavily relies on fossil fuels for machinery to grow the food, fuel for transporting the food, and resources for packaging the food (plastics are also a huge contributor to global ecosystem degradation). Over the past few years I myself have been trying to reduce my carbon footprint and, more specifically, my use of plastics. The use of plastic in conventional grocery stores is rampant and shopping at a farmer’s market is a good way to reduce the use of plastic.
It may seem that it takes conscious effort to understand what’s in season where you are and build your meals around those fruits and veggies. The good news is, it’s not as difficult as you might think.
Seasonal Eating Made Easy
There are a few ways to make seasonal eating more automated in your life (because automating your choices makes it easier!). You can regularly visit local farm stands or farmers’ markets and get all your produce there. If it’s not in season, they won’t be selling it. Living in Lake Oswego and the Metro area, we have access to many opportunities to shop for local and seasonal produce. We have a bounty of farmers markets, co-ops, as well as specialty grocery stores like New Season’s, Zupan’s, and Market of Choice which will be great resources for a new adventure in seasonal cooking. You can also sign up to receive seasonal produce from a community supported agriculture (CSA) program or some other fresh food delivery service. A CSA is a great way to connect with local farms and experience new and fresh ingredients delivered to a nearby convenient location and all you have to do is pick it up.
Or, you can discover what’s in season where you live by using a fantastic site like Seasonal Food Guide. Just plug in your state to see what’s growing locally right now. Then you can shop at your favorite grocery stores and still build your meals around peak-season fruits and vegetables. Virtually all grocery stores are going to have some seasonal produce in stock, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a good variety year-round.
Have fun exploring new tastes and textures and ways to prepare your favorites. There are fantastic apps and websites (links below) that can give you ideas of how to prepare all kinds of fruits and veggies regardless of your cooking acumen.
Link to our local farmers markets/ what’s in season:
Excited to include more peak produce goodness in your diet, but still not quite sure how to make seasonal eating work for you? I can help you develop a plan to meet all your health and wellness goals that works with your lifestyle and schedule. Let’s chat!