Shopping for the season: The benefits of eating seasonal produce
Eating in season means eating food that grows naturally at a certain time of year, instead of eating foods imported from other countries. There are many known benefits of eating seasonally, but what exactly are they?
Food that is grown and consumed during its given season is more nutritionally dense and likely to be fresher and higher in antioxidants (such as Vitamin C), folate and carotenes. All of the above nutrients will decline rapidly when the produce is stored for long periods of time.
When food is grown out of season, it can’t follow its natural growth and ripening patterns. For certain fruits and vegetables to be available all year-round, treatments, known as post-ripening agents, are used to make produce look fresh and more appealing to consumers. These ripening agents include chemicals, gases, and heat processes, which all have a negative impact on their nutritional value.
It tastes better
This is mainly due to quality over quantity. When produce is grown in large amounts to meet high demand, the growing process is often rushed and produce is picked for its aesthetic as opposed to its taste. In addition to this, food that needs to be transported must be harvested early and then chilled to extend its shelf life and prevent spoilage, however chilling will also reduce the quality of its flavour.
Locally harvested fruit and veg will generally have a nicer, more natural taste than mass-produced products on account of the minimised transportation and the time it is given to ripen naturally. As fruits and vegetables tend to be the most nutritionally dense right after they’re harvested, and at their peak ripeness, this also plays a key role in why they taste better when local and seasonal.
Being in season means there is lots of fresh produce right on our doorstep, so supply meets demand. When buying food out of season, for example buying strawberries in the winter, it could set you back double what you would pay for them in season. This is due to all of the additional costs that are incurred through either managed growth conditions or transportation from the other side of the world. Both processes come with additional costs that then get passed on to you as the consumer. Eating seasonal, local produce that can be grown in natural conditions and easily transported to the point of sale makes it much more affordable.
It’s better for the environment
It’s no secret that buying fruit and veg that doesn’t need to be flown halfway across the world would be better for the environment, but how much better is it?
It can be assumed that an apple that has travelled from a UK farm 50 miles away that is also in season where you are, will have a lower carbon footprint than produce that has come from Southern Europe. Data shows that a 100g box of blueberries grown locally will produce around 100g of carbon dioxide. If it’s flown in, that number increases by tenfold, pushing its carbon footprint up to over 1kg per box. Therefore, the benefit of buying local, in-season produce is that it won’t have to travel as far so fuel emissions and transportation costs are minimal.
For great ideas on how to prepare your seasonal fruit and veg, follow us on Instagram and check out our delicious recipe series!