the value and challenges of eating locally and seasonally
While it’s true that it can be a challenge to eat seasonally, it is also a culinary delight rich in freshness, nutritional value and a renewing connection to one another and our land. Real food is seasonal food and seasonal food is real. There is something absolutely fabulous about waiting all summer for the tender sweetness of a ripe fig fresh off the tree – or – the delicious juicy sweet crunch of a local apple in Fall.
Seasonal and local food is good nutritional economy – more vitamins and minerals for the dollar. Locally produced calories are also support local business in your area. While local foods may or may not be “certified” organic, the pleasure of the downright neighborliness of getting to know your local producers is one step in getting more involved with your food and local growers – the priceless act of reconnecting with our communities and building strong local bonds.
There are several key reasons to focus on a seasonal and local diet.
taste matters : Just compare the flavor a color of a warm juicy tomato from your farmer’s market in July to one from your big chain grocery store. say no to gmo : Small farmers can focus on local and heirloom varieties of produce which reduces your exposure to genetically modified foods.
variety is the spice of life : From summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches and beans to fall apples, corn, pumpkins, acorn squashes and into winter cabbages, beets, kales, radishes and leeks, you’ll enjoy the full spectrum of foods your area produces. To find what’s local in your town visit www.localharvest.org
environmental benefits : Local seasonal foods lend to reduced pollution as well as transportation costs. Lower transportation costs translates to lower food costs – it’s just less expensive in the big picture to eat the locally abundant food available and to support the local farmers in our communities.
investing in your community and investing in yourself : Hipoocrates once said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food.“ Along with that goes eating a seasonally based diet with lots of variety throughout the year. This is the “cornerstone of preventive medicine,” says Preston Maring, a doctor at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center in California. Inspired by study after study documenting the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet—reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, increased longevity, improved cholesterol, improved vascular health, increased bone density and weight loss, to name a few—Maring has actually written prescriptions for patients to buy fresh food from the hospital’s on-site farmers’ market, complete with suggestions about how they can prepare it.” (Mother Earth Living)
There can be, however, challenges to local eating. For many people – especially those working long hours or otherwise pressed for time, availability is key, and eating local can present hurdles, especially in areas with a long cold winter.
Many farmers markets close beginning in late October or November, so it takes some rooting around to locate the best sources to shop in winter. However, now farm CSAs with local drop off points and even home delivery are becoming more accessible and prevalent. Persistence and a desire to make this wonderful lifestyle change is really the key. Also, a willingness to try new, perhaps unfamiliar ingredients is a plus. My recommendation is always to take the plunge and go local, seasonal and organic – just a little bit at a time.
Despite the challenges, as you learn what’s available, you’ll become more comfortable planning for your regional food cycle. You’ll develop a seasonal eating rhythm that is more nutritious, healthy and very enjoyable!