Nature cycles throughout the year with a consistent rhythm and as wardrobes and activities change with the seasons, so does what the earth is producing. Historically, the season typically dictated what food was available and when.
Globalization and advances in technology have allowed many people to have access to an abundance of things year-round regardless of the season. It’s also increasingly more common that people are unfamiliar with growing food, harvesting and often food preparation as well. Today there are many people who may not have grown up with or learned about seasonality because of these shifts.
WHAT IS EATING SEASONALLY?
Eating seasonally typically refers to taking advantage of enjoying what nature is producing in abundance during each distinct season of the year. This means adjusting what is purchased and the dishes being cooked according to the season. When pumpkins are in season and readily available you might make lots of pumpkin oriented recipes for several weeks, meaning pumpkin would be a staple in the diet during this time.
When the season changes and the conditions are right for something different to come into season, and for pumpkin plants to begin to stop producing pumpkins, it’s time to bring the attention and focus to enjoying the new foods more and transition out of using pumpkin as a staple. Techniques like pickling, jamming, fermenting and canning all helped make the most out of what was in season and create a way to enjoy those foods during other times of the year when they wouldn’t be available.
WHY EAT SEASONALLY?
There can be a lot of pleasure in adjusting to the seasons and following nature's lead. When things are in season they are often in abundance. This abundance generally means prices are lower. The texture and flavor of the food is at its peak since conditions are perfect for it to be made. Eating seasonally locally means eating according to local geographical seasons and climate.
Grocery stores may still stock items that are not locally in season and have been brought from elsewhere to provide variety, so it’s important not to assume that what is available is in season locally. Eating seasonally and locally can be a great way to support smaller producers and farmers in the community. When food is seasonal and local it typically spends less time in transit getting from where it was picked to the plate faster. This means that texture, flavor, and smell are likely at their peak.
DIFFERENT PEOPLE, DIFFERENT NEEDS
While eating seasonally can be a great option for getting some foods, herbs, and spices at cheaper prices and in peak freshness; there are other options which are still good ways to get nourishing fruits and vegetables into the week.
Canned and frozen are still great options when it comes to consistency, sometimes price, convenience, shelf life, taste preference and more. In some cases a recipe may even taste better when made with canned vegetables vs. the same vegetables when fresh and in season. Some people may also actually prefer the taste and texture of one vs. the other. A fun experiment can always be to pick one fruit or vegetable that is in season and if possible purchase and try it in a variety of ways (canned, frozen, dried, fresh, cooked etc.).
It’s important to remember that many things factor into the foods people choose to eat, and eating seasonally might not be realistic or accessible to everyone, but use these tips to help make informed choices.
HOW TO EAT SEASONALLYThere are a few resources online that provide guides for what might be in season during different times of the year, and in different regions of each country. The USDA’s SNAP-Ed Seasonal Produce Guide and the Seasonal Food Guide Australia are great places to start.