In recent years, the local food movement and general enthusiasm of supporting farmers close to ones’ own home has gained momentum. It sustains the environment and the local economy but it also benefits the consumer. By making the decision to eat in accordance with what the surrounding environment is able to provide at that time ensures the food is not traveling thousands of miles from its place of origin to your plate.
The typical grocery store looks fairly similar year round because they receive produce that our local environment cannot sustain from neighboring countries with warmer climates. But what is the problem with a system that allows us to eat peaches and watermelons to our heart’s content in the dead of winter? To begin, fruits and vegetables that have traveled an average of 1,500 miles from where they are produced have lost considerable nutrients along their journey, potentially up to 50%. So while you may have no problem finding mangoes in December, it is important to keep in mind the journey they’ve endured from their place of harvest and how much of the nutritional benefit was lost on that journey.
Part of the reason (for some of us the whole reason) that we eat produce is because of the health benefits it provides our bodies. Fruits and vegetables help us look better, have more energy, prevent disease and keep sickness at bay. If we are investing money in food and time into its preparation shouldn’t it give us the benefit that we are expecting?
With the changing of the seasons also comes a change in activity level and overall routine. While our bodies may need more hydration in the summer (from juicy watermelon), we need other things in the winter. For those of us living in the northeast facing cold winters, we can rely on substantial foods such as potatoes and squash to help keep us healthy during the extremes. Being in touch with seasonal fare keeps us mindful of our own body’s needs; if our environment cannot produce it we probably do not need it.
Various squash, potatoes, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, beets, leeks, apples, and pears are all produce that our northeast climate can provide during the cooler fall and winter months. While there is reasonable temptation to indulge in widely available out of season produce, in- season produce is fully capable of bulking out your cold- weather diet.
Rather than investing in produce that was grown with the intent of traveling hundreds of miles, we will all be better served by supporting local farmers who use environmentally friendly methods to bring us produce that celebrates the unique and varied possibilities of each season.