Contributed by Mirieta Selimovska
Enjoying foods only when they were in season was once the norm for everyone. Fast-forward to today, and we are able to access and eat most of our favourite fruits and vegetables year round. These are not all equal however, and striving to stay fueled as best we can by foods grown close to us and while in season has a variety of unique benefits. Here are 5 good reasons to eat more seasonal produce:
Produce that is intended for sale locally is picked and sold when they are most flavourful- at their peak ripeness. On the other hand, those that are grown in places further away and then transported to us are harvested before they have fully ripened and reached their natural flavour potential. This is so that they can withstand extended and diverse travel conditions while not spoiling (1,2). The time that it takes for produce to get from the field to the table largely impacts the flavour that they can lend to recipes.
Sunlight, soil and water all impact the nutritive quality of fruits and vegetables. Similar to its flavour, the nutrients in produce also need time in their natural surroundings to develop. Much of this is put to a stop when produce is harvested prematurely. For example, more than half of the amount of an antioxidant found in tomatoes, called lycopene, develops during the final stages of its ripening while on the vine (3).
Buying produce when it is in season is very cost-efficient due to changes in supply and demand. This is because they are available in a greater abundance now compared to other times of the year. They are also more accessible with the use of fewer transportation and storage resources. Typically, these are significant factors that help to drive down their price (1). To take especial advantage of this, buy seasonal produce in larger quantities to freeze and enjoy later on in your favourite meals, including overnight oats!
Being able to enjoy fruits and vegetables from other places around the world at times when they can’t be grown nearby relies on different modes of transportation. The fuel required to make these foods more widely accessible contributes to our greenhouse gas emissions and overall carbon footprint. To protect the health of our planet, these are activities that we should aim to reduce as much as possible (4).
Not only is eating seasonal better for you and the environment, but it’s also better for your neighbours! Buying seasonal produce helps to support local farmers and their families (1). This make us all more aware of how food gets from the field to our tables and who helps to make this possible!
While this style of eating may seem ‘trendy’ now, these 5 reasons make it clear that enjoying locally produced, seasonal fruits and vegetables is a tradition worth up keeping. Look out for the following fruits and vegetables each season to get started on your journey towards a more seasonal eating pattern:
Here in Canada, the growing season kicks off in the Spring with crops including rhubarb, cabbage and beets. A 1 cup serving of beets offers nearly 4g of fibre to help make meals more filling, try adding them to salad (5)!
The summer months are when we are able to enjoy the greatest variety of seasonal produce. This includes fresh berries and stone fruits, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers and corn. Cherries are also in season. A 1-cup serving contains 26% of one’s daily vitamin A requirements, which helps to support the body’s vision, skin and immune systems (5).
Nothing says fall like a classic visit to the apple orchards! Other produce available now includes : pears, cranberries, squash and cauliflower. Beans are also in season and are a great source of plant-based protein.
The cooler months are a great time to explore recipes that incorporate foods like garlic, leeks and turnips. While often forgotten, root vegetables such as turnips are also a great source of vitamin C, which is important for the growth and repair of body tissues (5).
For a full list of fruits and vegetables that grow nearby and when, consult your local Produce Availability Guide.
(1)Dietitians of Canada. (2018, October 31). Benefits of Buying Local Food. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Food-Production/Benefits-of-Buying-Local-Food.aspx
(2)Maduwanthi, S. D. T., & R, A. U. J. M. (2019). Induced ripening agents and their effect on fruit quality of banana. International Journal of Food Science, 2019, 8. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1155/2019/2520179
(3)Saini, R. K., Zamany, A. J., & Keum, Y. (2017). Ripening improves the content of carotenoid, α-tocopherol, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) fruits.3 Biotech,7(1). doi:10.1007/s13205-017-0666-0
(4)Forssell, S., & Lankoski, L. (2015). The sustainability promise of alternative food networks: An examination through “alternative” characteristics.Agriculture and Human Values,63-75. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
(5)Health Canada, H. P. (2017, August 24). Canadian Nutrient File (CNF) - Search by food. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp