In this day and age of instant gratification, when you can find any type of food any time you want it at your corner grocery store, one might ask, "Why should I eat in season? Why I should I deprive myself?"
My family does not eat completely seasonally: we keep carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, avocadoes, and bananas in our fridge year round, I buy tropical fruits as a treat when they're on sale (and have no clue when they're actually in season), and in the winter I branch out to add some diversity to our dinner plates. But the majority of the produce we eat is fresh and in season, purchased directly from the farmer. And I rarely ever feel deprived. In fact, I love eating seasonally. Here's why:
- Seasonal food tastes better, hands down. Sure you can buy a tomato in January, but it could never compare to the one freshly plucked off the vine in July. Produce picked at the peak of ripeness also has more nutritional value than produce shipped halfway across the world.
- When I eat in season, I feel more gratitude for the food I have. I relish every bite of every strawberry (or peach or watermelon) because I know the season is short and it will be another year before they appear at the farmers' market again. And after a long winter of sweet potatoes and cabbage, I dance with glee at the sight of tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Seasonal eating keeps me in tune with the seasons in general. It's one more way to keep us connected to nature and our beautiful world.
- Eating in season has forced us to branch out of our comfort zones and try vegetables that might otherwise never make an appearance at our dinner table. Some of those have been a total FAIL (turnips!), but others have become some of our favorites (kale and collards).
- And perhaps most importantly if you're a Conscious Shopper, food is almost always cheapest when it's in season.
This month as you Green Your Groceries, challenge yourself to eat more seasonally.
- Educate yourself on when food is in season. Google "in season produce" and your state.
- Set a goal to make a certain percentage of your produce seasonal. What that percentage is can be up to you and may depend on the season. For example, from late spring to early fall, my family eats about 80% seasonally, but in the winter, it drops to about 60%.
- Join a CSA. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, I know. You might be thinking, "Erin keeps telling me to join a CSA. I don't want to join a CSA!" Well, here's the thing: We've been part of three CSAs now, and honestly, we probably won't join another - I do prefer being able to plan ahead with my groceries. But I can't stress enough how valuable an experience it is when you're first experimenting with sustainable eating. CSAs force you to eat in season (just like they force you to learn to cook). You've already paid for it, there's no backing out, so you learn how to do it. And once your CSA season is through, you'll be an expert. (And I'm probably going to repeat this same thing next week for the Eat Local challenge. I'm serious - join a CSA!)