What does eating seasonably mean? Eating seasonably means eating the right items such as fruits and vegetables according to their natural harvest cycles. There are 3 main reasons to eat seasonably. Experts agree that eating seasonably means better taste, better value and a better impact on the planet. As nutrition students, getting more people to eat their fruits and vegetables is one of the reasons why eating seasonably is so important.
Fruits and vegetables taste better because fresh seasonal produce develop the right amount of key nutrients including sugars during their natural growing season and these compounds peak right before harvest. Each variety of fruit and vegetable has their own growing season. Since we live in a very temperate and mild climate, there are many plants including fruits and vegetables that are made available to us year round. However, there are some key things to remember about fruits and vegetables in order to maximize their unique flavor profiles.
Eating seasonably is a better value. Research has shown that a basket of fruit and vegetables bought in the summer can be as much as a third cheaper than the same basket bought out of season. When we go to our local grocery store, you will notice that some fruits and or vegetables are cheaper during certain times of the year. Generally, fruits and vegetables are their cheapest during their natural harvest season. Eating seasonably is more financially advantageous from a consumer standpoint in addition to getting the most flavor and nutrition from the fruits and vegetables we purchase. Fruits and vegetables that are grown locally are cheaper to produce because it does not involve travel expenses, which can add to the final cost especially with current gas prices.
Eating seasonably is also better for the planet because growing in season means plants require less energy, in terms of fossil fuels. Fruits and vegetables grown seasonably are also grown locally so they do not have to travel as far to reach a market. The less gasoline and diesel we use, the less greenhouse gases we create thereby lessening humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet.
Contrary to what most people think, salads are not just for hot or sunny days, although they are a wonderful way to rehydrate your body and your taste buds. Often when we think about the cold winter months ahead, most people think about hot soups and stews. Actually, leafy greens such as arugula, Belgian endive, chard, chicories, curly endive, escarole, kale, radicchio, and lettuce of most varieties will turn bitter in warmer weather. Winter is the best time to consume these types of vegetables especially if you are afraid to try new varieties. The same holds true with certain cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, broccoli raabe, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. These vegetables are generally milder in flavor during the winter months. Cabbage will actually become sweeter the longer you cook it. Surprisingly, the two most important vegetables during the winter months are cabbage and potatoes. Most varieties of potatoes are harvested in the fall and made available during the winter because the potato itself is an amazing storage vegetable.
Winter is definitely not lacking in spices and herbs. Celeriac or celery root is better in the cooler months along with garlic and onions. Garlic is more plump and sweet in the late summer and fall. Onions and shallots are better fresh and more flavorful during the winter months. Plants such as garlic, onion and shallots have numerous layers that keep the plants from drying out, serving as nature’s packing material. The layers in essence lock in the flavor of the bulbs along with the moisture. The herbs that do best during the winter months are rosemary, parsley, thyme and sage.
If you love apples, now is the time to enjoy them. The natural harvest cycle is late summer through fall. The berries that are best are cranberries and grapes. Generally grapes ripen at the end of summer, but they can continue late into fall. The most memorable fruits during the winter months are figs, persimmons, pears and pomegranates. Pomegranates are in season starting in October and are usually available through December. If you ever get to try the different varieties of pomegranates, “wonderful” is the sweetest and the largest.
So how do you know if you are eating seasonably? As a general rule of thumb: the winter months means squashes, pumpkins, cabbages and potatoes. Think of it this way…all the vegetables that you would throw into a hearty stew are generally the vegetables that are in season and all the desserts you would see around the holidays, such as pumpkin pie, persimmon bread, apple pie and figgy pudding would be the fruits commonly enjoyed during this winter season.
To make remembering what is in season and what is good to eat during the winter months easier, just imagine the following: salads are a must, you can add pomegranates or cranberries to your salad for a bit of flare, both for the color contrast and flavors followed by a nice hearty stew or chowder (made from cream and potatoes) and finally for dessert a nice slice of warm apple or pumpkin pie. Happy winter!