A tart, crunchy apple on a brisk fall day…the juice of a ripe early-summer peach trickling down your chin…the amazing sweetness of just-picked corn: Is anything more delicious than eating foods in season?
Seasonal eating is in vogue, thanks to the White House kitchen garden and best-selling books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma. But it’s hardly a new trend. Eating foods when nature produces them is what people the world over have done naturally through most of history, before mega-supermarkets dotted the landscape and processed foods became ubiquitous. Seasonal eating is also a cornerstone of several ancient and holistic medical traditions, which view it as integral to good health and emotional balance.
Seasonal eating means two things, really: building meals around foods that have just been harvested at their peak and adjusting your diet to meet the particular health challenges of winter, spring, summer and fall. While it may seem like a luxury to have any food we want, anytime we want it, eating foods in season offers many benefits.
For starters, it connects us to the calendar and often to one another, reminding us of simple joys — apple picking on a clear autumn day, slicing a juicy red tomato in the heat of summer, celebrating winter holidays with belly-warming fare. Secondly, produce picked and eaten at its peak generally has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than foods harvested before they’re ripe and then shipped long distances.
Eating seasonally often means eating locally grown foods, so it’s good for the environment too: It supports small and midsize local farmers, cuts down on pollution from shipping and trucking food and reduces your carbon footprint. And if all that’s not enough to get you to make some simple switches in your diet, consider this: In-season foods save you money.