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Numerous articles, messages, and trends advise us on how to eat nutritiously yet deliciously while also maintaining a “green,” environmental-conscience at the same time. But, out of all the various sources claiming precedence over the next, what advice should a good cook really pay attention to in order to fulfill this twenty-first century culinary criteria? Well, it may be as simple as pay a little more attention to certain trends—nature’s trends.
Typically, society has very specific connotations attached to the concept of the distinctly separate seasons. Shorts and tee shirts in the summer time, blooming flower buds in the spring, the white landscape of winter, and the leafy patterns of fall. However, one would not find it enjoyable or ideal to embrace the winter season with summer time’s shorts, tee shirt, and sneakers. The discomfort and lack of satisfaction of such a situation is blatantly obvious to all of us.
Each and every kind of plant, as with the typical associations with various seasons, also has certain period of time and specific conditions that make it optimal growing. Similar to the way in which no one wants to wear summer clothes during the dead of winter, each plant also carries a seasonal preference. For ecologists, seasons are considered a natural source of diversity and they also compromise the backdrop of cooking and eating. Changes in growing conditions throughout the seasons of the year are considered essential for balancing the earth’s resources.
And what might be the greater benefit of seasonal eating for you and your families? Well, more than you might have assumed. First of all, the taste of any food and the flavorful edge that it can add to any recipe is the main reason that most enjoy certain foods over others. At most large supermarkets, suppliers grow produce in a hothouse or ship it around the world. Crops are harvested prematurely and then refrigerated so that they will not rot during transportation and before being sold. Therefore, this produce does not ripen to full nutritional value as well as it would in its natural environment and is unable to fully develop flavor. Locally harvested food does not undergo such a process, and, as result, has its full, fresh flavors intact. Also important is the avoidance of pesticides and other chemicals usually added to aid the enhanced growth of crops for large suppliers. By eating seasonally and locally, you and your family can cut down ingestion of harmful growth substances.
The benefits do not stop there. With each fruit or vegetable comes a particular time of year for its harvest, a time most optimal to enjoy the food’s full nourishment. Generally, these guidelines can determine what’s best and most ripe during the four seasons. In the summer, light, cooling fruits like peaches,blueberries,watermelon, strawberries, pears, plums as well as vegetables like broccoli, corn, and cauliflower. In the fall, harvest foods such as garlic, sweet potato, onions, and carrots are in season. In the winter season, foods that take longer to grow typically fall into this category, like all of animal foods (fish, chicken, beef, lamb, and venison), apples,as well as many root vegetables including carrots, onions, and potatoes. For spring, leafy and tender vegetables are in season such as lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil. With the seasonal harvesting of plants at their prime, the additional benefit of a wider variety within a healthy diet is only one of many different benefits that seasonal eating can provide.
Finally, eating seasonally can help the environment as a whole. During the transport of produce, at times, farmers will use irradiation, or, the zapping of the produce with a burst of radiation in order to kill germs, and preservatives, such as wax, to protect the refrigerated produce. Local eating is simply a better option. Because locally harvested, seasonal fruits and vegetables are not transported as widely as those being transported to large distributors, pollution can be cut down and local economies can benefit.
But where to start? First, visit a local farmers market or join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that makes fresh, local produce available to members on a regular basis. Of course, growing fruits and vegetables in your own garden allow you to grow and pick your own food—and gives you the satisfaction of cultivating it yourself. By paying attention to what is in season and buying locally, you and your family will be rewarded with high quality, nutritious produce at a lower price.