Today I strolled around the farmers market. I was rugged up, beanie and scarf on and jacket zipped as high as it would go. I was cold. Melbourne’s winter had suddenly hit and it had not gone unnoticed. I could see my breath as I wandered the stalls and frost still lay on the blades of grass and dampened my boots. Nothing heralds the change of a season more to me; with the exception of the weather, than the produce available at farmers markets. What was readily available and sold in quantities two months ago, was now nowhere to be seen. As the weather changes across the globe and the trees shed all their foliage, so does the fresh produce that is available. The arrival of a new season is a great reminder of the importance of eating healthy with the seasons - seasonal eating. Here are four of the amazing benefits of eating healthy by purchasing local foods in season:
1) It’s More Cost Effective
Food is easier to grow in its proper season, making it more abundant, less time-intensive and more affordable. When farmers are harvesting a large abundance of produce due to the crop being in season, the cost of the produce will go down. When the produce is locally sourced because it’s in season in your area, then travelling expenses and storage are not required therefore reducing the production costs that are then passed on to the consumer.
2) It’s More Delicious
Foods that have had the chance to fully, naturally ripen before they have been picked will taste how they are supposed to, delicious! Your taste buds will thank you for eating in season as the foods taste better, sweeter and perfectly ripe. With food not in season, crops must be harvested early and refrigerated so they don’t spoil during transportation. Then, the prolonged chilling reduces the flavour. When they get to the final destination, they may need to be heated in a hot house to artificially ripen the produce before it goes onto the shelves, this greatly reduces the flavour, changes the texture and the taste. Doesn't sound too natural to me!
3) It’s Healthier
When produce is grown in its proper season under the appropriate growing conditions, it retains all of its natural nutrients, making eating healthy super easy. Seasonal fruits and veggies don’t have to endure as much travel, so they don’t lose vital nutrients along the way. Seasonal fruits and vegetables will be fresher and appear brighter and more vibrant. Most fruits and vegetables grow in the season in which they are best for your body and supports your body’s natural nutritional needs. For example in winter we are provided by nature all things citrus, these are particularly high in Vitamin C which is very important for preventing colds and flus. Summer foods such as stone fruits provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage.
4) It’s Greener
Seasonal foods typically have fewer chemicals. Foods that have been picked too early and travel long distances won’t look as pretty as the seasonal ones that grew to their peak. To make them look more appealing, they’re often given chemical ripening agents, wax coatings and other preservatives. Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season produce which further supports more local produce and supports local farming in your area which means less transportation, less refrigeration, less hot houses, which is better for the environment. Now that so much produce is available for most of the year, it’s easy to lose track of its seasonality. Although shopping in larger supermarkets provides produce all year round, Farmers Markets are a great place to buy what’s in season as that’s what they have on offer. One of my favourite things to do with my daughter is to spend a Saturday morning strolling around a Farmers Market, chatting to the local farmers who proudly display their goodies. It allows us to experiment with new foods and try new recipes. There are many Farmers Markets to choose from every weekend that are scattered all over Melbourne selling seasonal foods. Most markets support environmental sustainability and encourage visitors to bring along their own re-usable bags. They provide the community with direct access to fresh farm-origin and organic food products that are in season. If shopping at the supermarket is more your thing it is not that difficult to find out what foods are in season. Take a quick glance around the fruit and vegetable section and pay attention to the prices. If you notice there’s an abundance of something and they’re on sale, that’s a good indication.
According to the Seasonal Food Guide Australia, this is what is in season in the Southern hemisphere in Melbourne Australia now…
- Winter Fruits in Season (perfect for preserving and delicious desserts).
- Apples, avocados, cumquats, grapefruits, mandarins, oranges, pears, persimmons, quinces, tangelos and tangerines.
- Winter vegetables in season (delicious roasted and in wonderful warming soups).
- Asian greens, Beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, fennel, garlic, ginger, jerusalem artichokes, kale, okra, olives, onions, potato, pumpkin, daikon radish, shallot, silver-beet, sweet potato, turnip and chicory.
Why not give seasonal eating a go? Get out of your comfort zone and experiment with some new foods. I’ve never cooked with artichokes before but I’m going to give it a shot. I found a helpful blog post that details how to prepare the artichoke and which part to use for cooking. Seasonal cooking will give you a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness for each season, allow your body to get the nutrients it requires and provide your taste buds with a range of delicious tastes, colours and textures. Happy Warm Winter Eating