A Guide To Seasonal Eating

You may have noticed a mention of season change here in England, and let me just tell you that feeling is real now, well kinda. In London the sun is still shining, the sky is fairly clear, but it feels like we’re on borrowed time. This week marked the autumnal equinox and the ~official~ end of summer, and with that it seems like the right time to talk about seasonal eating.

So what exactly is seasonal eating? Well, these days you can get just about anything in the supermarket at any time of the year, but this isn’t necessarily the best option for you or for the planet. Fruit and vegetables naturally grow in cycles, to eat seasonally is to buy produce that is in season in your part of the world, and has been grown and harvested in your actual area, as opposed to simply eating any food that has grown far away and been shipped across half the world to reach  you. It’s about knowing what’s in season where you are and buying accordingly, and it’s actually not too hard! Here are some of the key reasons why seasonal eating is a great choice:

– It’s Cheaper
When you buy produce that’s in season it means that particular item is cheaper to harvest and sell as the crop is at its peak quantity. Also if it’s seasonal to your country it is locally sourced, so the cost of storing and transporting the crop is way lower (or nonexistent) and these costs aren’t passed on to you. On the other hand, if you buy something out of season it has to be sourced from somewhere with a different climate, stored for longer and transported to you. AKA, way pricier.

– It’s Better Quality
When you eat seasonally your produce will be at its peak in terms of both taste and health. As well as keeping prices lower when something is grown close to you it is also harvested at the best time of season and delivered straight to you; it doesn’t have time to spoil on its trip and it’s sold in its actual season. Your purchases won’t have had time to lose flavour or nutritional value by spending long periods of post-harvest time in a shipping container. For out of season food to reach your supermarket before it spoils it is picked before the peak of its flavour in order to survive the journey to the supermarket, so you get lower quality for higher cost, yay! (said no one ever)

– It Supports Your Seasonal Health Needs
The natural cycle of crop growth is in sync with what our bodies need at different times of year, which is pretty neat. Summer fruits, such as stone fruits, provide extra beta-carotenes and carotenoids that help protect against sun damage, whilst citrus in winter is a brilliant source of Vitamin C for fighting those colds and flus that are rife in the colder months. Summer vegetables are cooling and perfect for salads, winter vegetables provide comfort foods for winter warmer stews and soups, so it also fits with what you’ll be wanting to eat at these times of year, no one wants a hot stew in the middle of August.

– It Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
This is an obvious one, by buying seasonally your food is grown much closer to you. It’s cheaper because of much less shipping, but it also uses far less emissions to get that food to you. Simple.

– It Can Boost Local Economies
Ok, eating seasonally doesn’t always equate to supporting local, because you could still buy seasonal produce in a large store, and a large food company could have still harvested early and stored your food away so you still may not get those lovely aforementioned benefits. The best thing you can do (as and when you can) is to combine seasonal eating with buying locally. In England, this is relatively easy to do. If you live in a large city like London there are multiple markets and businesses that stock local produce, if you live in a smaller place (I grew up in a tiny northern town) then you’re often closer to local farms than you may even know. Do some research into your area and see what you can find, these days there are also a variety of delivery services, bringing local fruit and veg right to your door. As well as getting your food at its best, it also means you invest your money directly into your area. Your local economy will be boosted and the people in your area will benefit, which I’d much rather do than put my money into the pocket of some mega corporation.

This being said, don’t put crazy pressure on yourself if you can’t get everything from England, it’s just about being sensible with where your food is coming from. As Eat The Seasons explains on their site

‘It’s better to eat oranges, peaches and kiwi fruit flown over from Spain or Italy rather than those that have travelled much further from Africa, America or Australia.  We also include a very small number of fruit grown outside Europe that we can’t live without – bananas, pomegranates and passion fruit – and suggest that these are enjoyed, in moderation, when UK and European fruit is relatively sparce. We do, however, think it’s a bit silly to buy asparagus flown in from South America, or apples shipped from New Zealand, when for many weeks or months of the year you can feast on far superior native versions – often at a lower cost financially as well as environmentally. And whenever a particular UK-produced ingredient goes out of season, you can guarantee that another delicious food has come back into season to tempt us all’

So how do you start eating seasonally? The answer is simple, just do a bit of research and then make a choice about where you’re going to shop and what you’re going to buy. This table from BBC Goodfood is one of my absolute favourites for telling you everything you need to know about what’s growing and when you should buy it, it’s the perfect guide to consult. The other thing about eating seasonally is it means you plan what you’ll buy, no more wandering aimlessly in the aisles and picking up random food that will eventually spoil. Plan ahead, buy accordingly (and seasonally) and reduce your wasteage! The benefits never end!

I also like this little easy guide that I found online, for a quick overall refresher on what to be looking out for:

– In spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of this season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil.

– In summer, stick with light, cooling foods in the tradition of traditional Chinese medicine. These foods include fruits like strawberries, apple, pear, and plum; vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn; and spices and seasonings like peppermint and coriander.

– In fall, turn toward the more warming, autumn harvest foods, including carrot, sweet potato, onions, and garlic. Also emphasise the more warming spices and seasonings including ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds.

– In winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods. Remember the principle that foods taking longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. This includes most root vegetables, including carrot, potato, onions and garlic, as well as corn and nuts.

I hope this guide helps, and happy shopping!
Until next time, stay magic y’all.

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