Secret Benefits to Eating In-Season Produce
February 19, 2015
"Photo: Organic vegetable garden at Torre del Tartufo"
Secret Benefits to Eating In-Season Produce
The owner / chef / waiter had just set down heaping plates of salad at our table.
Now he was staring at us from behind the counter, with an expectant smile.
“I’ve been here before. He’s proud of using only seasonal ingredients. Wants to see you take your first bite!” explained my dinner companion, helpfully.
It was quite odd. My shy salad, in a spotlight.
Shrugging, I crammed in a fork-speared mouthful. And, then… I understood what the fuss was about.
The little restaurant is closed now, sadly. I don’t even recall the name. But those savoury sprightly greens still dance in my taste-bud memory.
You probably don’t need much convincing about in-season produce trumping their limp, imported counterparts for sheer taste. But there are many other perks besides flavour and texture.
Food shipped over long distances loses flavour and freshness. Not to mention incurring some dents and bruises along the way.
But imports can also drive up transit fuel costs.
And even if produce is grown relatively nearby in greenhouses, off-season hothouse fees are hefted onto the overall price.
Farmer's markets are a good place to start your food shopping. Produce is unloaded quickly while yields are still fresh, so there's an incentive to sell at lower prices.
And big bins overflowing with produce are a clue as to what’s in-season at larger grocers.
Seasonality isn't limited to produce. Some meat and game have peak seasons. And since meat is a pricier item in shopping carts, it's smart to keep an eye on time of year.
PACKED WITH NUTRIENTS
Nutritional value breaks down soon after harvest so longer transit times and refrigerated storage cause damage to compounds in fruits and vegetables.
Phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals are more likely to be preserved with in-season items.
You also expand your nutritional range over the year by switching things up every few months.
There are less pesticides, too. Smaller, organic farmers tend to spray crops with natural, safer chemicals.
AVOID FOOD RUTS
Large grocery chains dull our awareness of seasonality with the ready availability of off-season imports.
It can be fun to drum up meal ideas based on what’s in-season. And your taste-buds get treated to regular changes, dodging any "food lulls" that come from buying the same stuff all year round.
WHAT'S IN-SEASON RIGHT NOW?
Certain produce have more than one crop. For example artichokes are harvested in the Spring and Fall. Carrots and onions can grow year round in temperate climates.
The following list is a good starting point if you like to plan your shopping list ahead:
- - Brussel Sprouts - Kale - Leeks - Celery - Cauliflower - Onions - Radicchio - Spring onions - Sweet potatos .....
- - Clementines - Grapefruit - Pomegranate - Pears - Lemons - Apples .....
- - Cabbage - Celeriac - Lettuce - Mint - New Potatos - Pepper - Purple sprouting broccoli - Spinach .....
- - Apricots - Honeydew - Limes - Strawberries - Grapefruit - Pomegranate - Rhubarb ......
- - Tomatoes - Zucchini - Cabbage - Carrots - Cavolo nero - Courgette - Fennel bulb - Garlic - Lettuce ......
- - Blackcurrants - Blackberries - Cantaloupe - Raspberries - Cherries - Gooseberries - Redcurrant .......
- - Broccoli - Endives - Mushrooms - Swiss Chard - Turnips - Aubergine - Beetroot - Broad beans ......
- - Blackberries - Chestnuts - Dates - Lemons - Nectarines- Pears - Plums .......
For a more complete listing check out this handy seasonality calendar on the BBC Good Food Site: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/seasonal-calendar/all
Want to share your thoughts on eating in-season? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
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