It’s one of those things: we’re aware that seasonal food is good for us and that we should make more efforts to source it. Often, however, if we’re out and about we cave to the convenience of our smashed avocadoes in July or, if a recipe calls for it, our mangoes in May.
But what exactly are the benefits of seasonal food? Why should we be more diligent in sourcing seasonal and, ideally, local produce?
The most tangible benefit of buying seasonal food is its cost.
The cost of transit, refrigeration and even simply producing a food outside its natural life cycle and far from its natural climate is expensive. And there’s no second prize for guessing who those costs are passed onto.
Fresh, local and seasonal produce is cheaper than the alternative. With a higher natural supply, and reduced transportation and storage costs, the result is cheaper, better quality food for you.
Better for the environment
The lower costs associated with overland transit to urban centres mean a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and refrigeration. Not only this, but food produced in season takes more advantage of natural sunshine and rain cycles. Seasonal food requires fewer or no chemicals for artificial growth stimulation, which means less impact on the surrounding natural environment.
Improved quality and taste
Food that covers large distances needs to be preserved so that it doesn’t rot. There are various methods for doing this, and one of these is harvesting the produce before it is ripe. Other methods of preservation include spraying the food with chemicals to delay ripening, or spraying them to facilitate ripening once instore.
Food harvested early doesn’t get the chance to reach its full flavour and nutrient potential, and you will be able to see this in its appearance. For one of the best arguments for seasonal food available, compare the pale, out-of-season store tomatoes to those sitting ruby-red in the marketplace come summer.
Better for the community
One of the best reasons for choosing locally sourced and seasonal fruit and vegetables is that it supports local producers. These producers are a part of our community, not foreign-owned corporate interests. The simple decision to choose their produce over chemically enhanced and imported food has a positive impact on their lives and the communities they service and support.
Better for you
More nutrients and fewer chemicals in the produce means more nutrients and fewer chemicals in you.
Produce picked and packed out of season, and transported over large distances, can be coated in wax or even zapped with radiation to prevent it rotting. While these processes aren’t known to cause great harm, ask yourself what you’d prefer to eat: an irradiated apple or one freshly picked?
Fortunately, living in the internet age means that discovering which foods are in season has never been easier, with easy-to-read seasonal charts in abundance. So do your hip pocket, the community and yourself a favour, and start to make the shift to buying seasonal food.