Growing up in Hong Kong, I barely saw a patch of grass let alone knew what vegetables were growing when. The concept that food naturally grew at certain times of year was beyond my comprehension.
With the gift of air travel, transport and refrigeration, nothing is beyond our reach today. It’s all become so easy – but is it really a gift? Or have we lost touch with where the foods we eat actually come from and what times of year they naturally grow?
Here are a few reasons why I think eating seasonal produce is beneficial not only to our health, but also to the environment and communities.
Plants get all their nutrients from the sun and soil. Harvesting local produce when its fully ripened means all of our wonderful fruit and veg – plums, strawberries, and potatoes – are given the longest possible time to absorb as many nutrients as they can. More sun = more antioxidants!
Produce that is transported from overseas is often (although not always) picked before being ripe to withstand the transportation process. The further away the produce, the earlier it needs to be picked. Have you ever wondered why bananas are green on our supermarket shelves?
The produce that naturally grows during a certain month is the same produce that our bodies need at that time of the year – to keep our immune system at an optimum level.
To explain: in the summer we have refreshing water- and sugar-enriched produce such as cucumbers, lettuce and berries to keep us cool and naturally hydrated. And in winter, we have tougher more fibrous vegetables such as pumpkins, kale and parsnips that have more slow-releasing sugars, giving us longer lasting energy resources to withstand the cold.
Eating produce grown in much hotter climates during the winter will have the opposite effect. For example, pineapples in winter will give a quick burst of energy as they are very sweet and full of fast releasing fruit sugars; but this energy burst is not long lasting enough to sustain us when our immune strength is at its most vulnerable.
Produce grown outside of its natural season needs extra assistance to grow and look appealing to consumers. This can come in the form of pesticides, genetic modification, waxes, chemicals and preservatives – all toxic compounds that harm our waters, soil and health. By choosing local seasonal food you are more likely to get a ‘cleaner’ product!
Eating more local seasonal veg will definitely encourage you to move out of your comfort zones and try cooking and eating something new.
We can’t control the weather and can’t predict exactly what will grow and when; but that’s part of the excitement of eating seasonally. At your local farmers’ market, there’s no guarantee that exactly what you want and need will be there. So why not try a new veg that is available? Say, a kohlrabi or maybe a new type of pumpkin. Going to the supermarket might guarantee that you can buy exactly what you want, but it also means we usually end up buying the same things week in, week out.
There’s something so grounding and nourishing about going to a local farmers’ market. It’s not only an opportunity to select a shopping bag full of different goodies, it’s also great to meet and shake the hands of our dedicated farmers who work so hard all year round. It helps me understand exactly where my produce has come from and who grew it; and it means I’m more connected to the overall process.
All-in-all, embracing the natural cycles of nature helps simplify life, keeps us grounded and supports our health. We may not always get exactly what we want but it’s more than likely we will get exactly what we need.
To find your local farmers market visit local-farmers-markets.co.uk
To try a seasonal veg box scheme visit riverford.co.uk or abelandcole.co.uk
For regular seasonal recipes, cooking classes and events visit nickyclinch.com
Nicky is a natural foods chef and certified holistic nutritionist and counsellor based in London. She teaches regular one day cooking classes as well as a six-week course (‘transform your diet, transform your life’) in Hackney.
Nicky also hosts a seasonal supper club throughout the year. For more information on classes and events, plus many seasonal meat-free recipes and features, visit nickyclinch.com
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