Why Eat Seasonally?One of the most popular recent topics of conversation relating to our eating habits has been the idea of eating seasonally. What this basically means is that, as far as possible, we should only eat foods which are naturally available at the time of year we're eating them. But why should we care whether a food is in season? Is this merely a passing fad that people are getting excited about just now, but will soon be forgotten? What exactly are the benefits of eating seasonally?
The first major benefit is an important one in our environmentally conscious times. When we eat a food which isn't in season, it would normally have to be transported to us from a part of the world where it is. This brings up the subject of so-called 'food miles', which measure how far a food has to travel from where it's produced to where it's consumed. For a variety of reasons - pollution, energy consumption etc - it's better to minimize food miles whenever we can. Seasonal food will generally be produced much nearer to the point of consumption, and so will have a lower impact on the environment than well traveled foods.
A related point is freshness: if food doesn't have to travel as far, it will be fresher when you come to eat it, and it's generally the case that the fresher a food, the better it tastes and the more health benefits it has. This is especially the case with fruits and vegetables, which are often picked well before they are ripe so that they can withstand the long journeys they have to make without going past their best. Unfortunately, this will normally reduce the eating qualities of the food.
With seasonal food usually being more locally produced, concentrating your spending power on buying it will help to keep your local economy ticking over, keeping money circulating within your community, which can only help make the place you live a more pleasant area to be in.
The final reason for eating seasonally that we'll cover is at first glance a little paradoxical: by limiting the range of foods we eat to those in season, we stand less chance of getting bored with what we eat. When everything is available all year round, we'll tend to buy the same things over and over again, getting stuck in a culinary rut. Seasonal foods avoid this problem - by only using what's available at the time, we're forced to come up with new ways of eating rather than just sticking to what we know. There's also the sense of anticipation that we get from knowing that a certain favorite food will shortly be coming into season, and the pleasure of eating it increases when we know that it's a seasonal treat that we should appreciate before it's gone for another year!
Of course, few people advocate that you should deprive yourself by only eating local and seasonal produce - or how would people in cooler climates enjoy, for example, citrus fruits? However, by paying attention to what's good and local at the moment, you provide an extra dimension to your food shopping and eating that just loading up your trolley with imported foods at the supermarket really can't match.
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