Eating seasonally is an easy way to be gentler on the planet, improve your health and shrink your grocery spend. So why don’t we all do it? Daile from The Confused but Conscious Consumer peers into the produce section.
Picture this – you walk into a grocery store on a wintery July day. Maybe it’s your local farmers’ market; it could be a chain supermarket or even a fruit and veg shop. There are so many options – beautiful looking fruit and vegetables on display. The tomatoes are red and juicy, lettuce green and leafy. An apple so shiny you want to bite into it on the spot, just to hear the loud crunch and feel the sweetness burst in your mouth.
You may come shopping armed with a very specific list of items to purchase, based on the cookbooks you scoured prior to your shopping adventure; or perhaps the knowledge of ingredients for a family favourite. You grab a basket and fill it to the brim with zucchini for a frittata, asparagus for a weekend breakfast cook-up, sweet potato and pumpkin to make a nourishing soup, strawberries and mangoes to add to your post-exercise smoothies and some mint for Mojitos because no one is THAT perfect when they go shopping.
The asparagus has been imported from Mexico, the mint is out of season as it’s winter and the strawberries and mangoes are horribly expensive but still grown in Australia… although how far away and under what unnatural circumstances?
As consumers, we demand that the fruits and vegetables we want to eat be available for purchase at all times. Especially if we have seen it as a key ingredient on a TV cooking show the night before. We will pay top dollar for out of season fruit and vegetables, and not bat an eyelid at a bunch of greenery flown 14,000 kilometres to be sold en masse.
But how are we supposed to know what is in season? I’m no agricultural guru, and to be honest have a difficult enough time keeping a cactus alive let alone a vegetable garden. I have done a basic amount of research and know there are handy guides such as this one for Australians, this for the US and one for the UK. I have no doubt Google will point you in the right direction for whichever country you are in.
Seasonal eating information is out there, and sometimes common sense comes into play as well. Winter is the time for root vegetables, summer is perfect for stone fruit and spring is the sound of strawberry picking.
Eating seasonally is not that difficult but sometimes it means putting down your recipe book, turning off the TV cooking show inspiration and tossing out your old favourites. A great idea is ordering a farmers box every week and discovering new recipes based on the surprises found in the delivery. Think of it as a Masterchef Mystery Box in real life.
Tips for eating seasonally
– Shop at farmers markets. Talk to the vendors selling the produce, find out where the delicious food you are about to buy is grown and ask for their recommendations.
– Buy your fruit and veggies first. After you have stocked up on enough fruit and veg for the week, pull out your cookbooks or do a recipe search with your main ingredients. This will guide you with a list of non-perishables to buy to complete your meal plan.
– If it seems expensive, don’t buy it. There is a reason avocados are $4.00 in autumn. Not buying overpriced produce is a great way to eat seasonally as well as reduce your weekly spend.
– Experiment with food. So what if the recipe calls for potato and you bought turnip instead? You may discover new favourite flavours and surprise yourself. Breaking the rules is fun.
– Follow interesting food blogs to keep inspired all year round. I have listed some of my personal go-to blogs – Inspirational food blogs for cooking seasonally.
So, how often do you actually consider where your food comes from and how it came to be glistening at your produce market? Do you have any great food blogs you want to share? What about tips on how you eat seasonally at home?
KBR, tomato salad (CC)
Elizabeth Thompson, Vegetables on display (CC)