What is eating by the season?
Eating by the season is eating the produce that is ripe at a given time of the year. Not all fruiting plants have the same natural requirements to grow, so there are different harvests for each season.
Why different crops for the different seasons?
Growers do not follow the regular Gregorian calendar when it comes to seasons. They mainly rely on the high and low temperatures to determines them. Although they still divide the year into four seasons, they are named differently.
Cold for the months with constant freezing temperatures. Cool when temperatures are above freezing but below 65F (18C). Warm when temperatures are about 75F (25C). Then hot when temperatures are above 86F (30C). Not all regions get all four seasons. Some have cold, cool, and warm. Others have cool, warm, and hot. It depends on your location in the world.
This temperature-based division helps determine which crops to grow each season. Brassicas and leafy greens enjoy cold temperatures with gentle sunlight. Peppers and tomatoes, on the other hand, prefer it warm with moderate sunlight. Comes to the hot season, corn, okra, and pumpkins are the stars.
Why eat in season?
1- Good for your health
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are picked at their prime of ripeness. Their content of nutrients, sugars, and water is at its highest. Besides, They provide our body with the required nutritional needs for that season.
Brassicas are high in minerals and vitamins, which are crucial for our immune system to fight off cold and flu. Summer vegetables, with their bright colors, are high in antioxidants providing our skin sun protection. They are also high in water content, which keeps us hydrated.
2- Good for the environment
Next time you go shopping, take a look at the source of the product. You won’t believe the distance they travel to get to our markets. When people eat by the season, the pressure on providers will increase to seek local producers. This will have a great impact on our carbon footprint by decreasing fuel burning.
3- Reduction in pesticide and preservatives
For the traveling food to get to the consumer safely, companies have to spray it regularly with pesticides to keep bugs at bay. They also apply preservatives and wax to keep the freshness the longest possible. If seasonal eating is encouraged, only close-by food will be available, so there will be minimal need to use chemicals.
4- You will never get bored of the same food
Since each season offers a variety of fruits and vegetables, you will never get bored of eating the same thing year-round. You already follow the seasons in your wardrobe; why not follow it on your plate?
5- Cost efficient
When produce is out of season, travel, time, and preservation costs are added to the overall price. Opt for seasonal vegetables and fruits; they will cost much less.
How to know what is in season?
Many find it challenging to know what’s in season. There are a few strategies to figure it out until you get the hang of it.
1- Shop local
Visit local farmers’ markets. You will definitely learn a lot there. There won’t be shiny strawberries in the middle of winter, not bright broccoli in the heart of summer. You will only find what is growing in the season and not far from you.
2- Educate yourself
Dedicate a few hours to search and make a list of your favorite produce for each season. Make it bright and attractive to your taste, then hang it somewhere in the kitchen as a reference for when you make your shopping list.
What about regions with a short growing season?
Areas with long winters are compensated by having long days during the growing season. They have greater chances of getting big harvests. This allows them to grow enough for immediate consumption and preserve some for the dormant season.
Is preserving food healthy?
While nothing beats fresh food, preserving is a smart way people invented to have some food available in desperate times. There are different ways to preserve vegetables and fruit for the off-season; drying, pickling, canning, and the most modern one is freezing. The question is “Is preserving good for you?”
The bottom line is that most-store-bought preserves are full of harmful ingredients. Your best bet is to look for a short and are natural ingredient list. Ideally, it is better to learn how to do it yourself safely.
Does preserved food keep its nutritional value?
The purpose of this article is to encourage you to eat by the season, to get the most of your food. Preserved food is useful in times of hardship or to fill the gaps of low production.
Vegetables and fruits do lose some of their nutritional value when they are not fresh, but depending on the reservation method used, you may get other benefits.
Studies show that frozen vegetables and fruit keep most of their nutrients. Compared to store-bought, they had the same nutritional value. They may lose some of the water-soluble vitamins, but most stay intact. The reason being is that the flash-freezing process usually takes place right after freezing. Also, this is the only preserving method that keeps most of the flavor.
This is the process that uses salt and water to encourage bacteria and yeast to break down the sugars of the produce. The result is a jar-full of gut-healing probiotics. Fermentation certainly alters the original flavor, but it is still good for you. Remember, I mentioned never eat in the season to never get bored.
Pickling is different from fermenting. It uses vinegar and water instead of salt. It might not be rich in probiotics, but it does keep most of the vitamins the produce contains in the brine. So, do not throw that brine, try to soak your bread in it to get its benefits.
Drying is another way to preserve food for the offseason. This method does not alter the produce as much. It only gets the water out of it to prevent mold and bacteria from growing. There different ways of dehydrting fruits and vegetables, such as sun drying, oven drying, air drying, and using a dehydrator.
Canning is another old-fashion way of preserving food. An array of edible goods are canned, but the most common are vegetables and fruits. The produce is cleaned and cut into the desired size. Then, they are packed in sterile glass jars, submerged in water, or syrup. The closed jars are then put in a water bath or an oven to seal. If the process is done properly, the food should be shelf-stable for years.
Fortunately, canning does not destroy the nutritional value of the produce. Only a few heat-sensitive vitamins, such as Vitamin C and B, are damaged during the heating step. Other than that, most nutrients are kept intact.