Have you ever noticed that tomatoes grown in your neighbor's summer garden taste much sweeter than the ones you buy at the supermarket? Before science played a part in agriculture, produce could not be grown outside of the season it naturally grew best in. In the ancient Indian practice of ayurveda, there is a special term for eating seasonally: ritucharya. The concept of ritucharya breaks down what to eat during each season for optimal health. This lifestyle encourages you to only eat fruits and vegetables that are in season for your geographic area. For example, eating pears in the fall, oranges in the winter, asparagus in the spring, and tomatoes in the summer.
Because demand for certain crops is high year-round, they are modified to grow in bulk and to resist disease. In order for them to be available year-round, post-harvest treatments (i.e. ripening agents) are used. These include chemicals, gases, and heat processes. Some produce is also coated with an edible film to protect it. Although we all enjoy eating our favorite foods all year round, the best time to eat them is when mother nature naturally harvests them. Below are some of the benefits of eating in season.
Consuming produce within its ideal growing season translates to fresher, more flavorful foods with more nutrient value. In a study that monitored the vitamin C content of broccoli, it was found that broccoli grown during its peak season had a higher vitamin C content than broccoli grown during the spring. When consumed closer to harvesting, there is more nutrient value, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrient content.
Supporting Your Body
Mother nature is intelligent. There is a reason why some produce is harvested in certain seasons. In winter time, we are provided with an array of citrus fruits that are particularly high in Vitamin C which is important for preventing infections such as colds and flu’s. Winter vegetables are perfect for hot meals, healthy stews, soups, casseroles and other warming, comforting meals. Summer foods provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage.
Better for Mother Nature
Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season produce which helps to support local farmers in your area. Food that has travelled across the world to get to your plate has a much higher impact on our environment. More energy is needed to transport, refrigerate, and store it. Often, more packaging is also needed to keep it fresh. By eating local, seasonal foods you can help reduce the environmental costs associated with your food.
Note: it is not always possible to eat in season and locally because of food deserts and other barriers. Although seasonal eating is not always possible, this concept serves as a gentle reminder to tend to, and be more conscious of your health & wellness - when possible.